At my current institution, there is constant talk of doing something new and providing for the next generation of students who will be going to college. As an aspiring student affairs professional, this is exactly what I want to do and why I want to be in this field. The question is, how do you go about starting something from scratch and making it a success, especially when you are a graduate student?
It was February 2015, I had just started graduate school that January and secured my graduate assistantship in February working with the commuter program on campus. In my first two weeks, I did some research on my institution’s commuter student population and found that there seemed to be another sub-culture of students within the commuter population: student parents. I started talking with my supervisor about what I had found in all the paperwork and surveys my predecessor left me and I was told that there really was not any specific program for student parents. It was shortly after that conversation that information about a contest through the Office of the Vice-President of Student Affairs was discussed in our office staff meeting called the Next Generation Initiative contest. Professional staff, graduate students (with their supervisor’s guidance), and students working alongside professional staff were encouraged to submit a proposal for new programming ideas and funding for up to $5,000 for the upcoming Fall 2015 semester. As you can imagine, I immediately got to work on writing up a proposal for a new initiative specifically for student parents. The problem? I had never written a grant proposal, I had just started graduate school after taking the summer and fall semester off, and just started an assistantship in an area I was not very familiar with already, so how was I going to convince this committee that I should receive a grant to start a program for student parents, another group of students I was not very familiar with?
Even though, I had no experience working with student parents, I gave it my all. I asked my supervisor and Director what exactly I should do to write up a proposal and I reached out for help from someone in another office to give me a fresh pair of eyes to look over everything as well as help me get an idea about what student parents may need or want. I bench-marked what other large, public institutions were doing and what smaller, private institutions were doing. In the end, I came up with a proposal that focused on building a community among our student parent population and help bridge the gap between the university and this student group. I turned in my proposal for Parent Mavericks and asked for the full amount of $5,000. About a month later, I was then asked to move on to the second round and interview with the committee. Before my interview, I was given a few suggestions on improving the program idea and so I went and I tweaked my proposal, making it a bit smaller and turned my original proposal into the five- to ten-year plan.
After the interview with the committee in April, I waited until May when I received an e-mail informing me that out of 22 total submissions, I was not only one of seven winners of a $5,000 grant, but also the only graduate student to be one of the winners. Now came another challenge: building a team of professional staff and leading them with this new initiative.
This past summer, after presenting to the whole Division of Student Affairs, I invited professionals from different departments to create the Parent Mavericks Development Team. For the past two months, my team has met as a big group as well as smaller groups focused on: Event Logistics, Assessment, and Marketing. Our first event of the year is coming up in September and I am super excited, but incredibly nervous since it is will be our first one and I am hoping it is successful.
So fingers crossed everything runs smoothly and be on the lookout for an update on Parent Mavericks!