On paper, Sara and I should not be friends. She is the most logical, rational person I know, and I have been known to tear up at anything remotely emotional. She has spent weeks of her life camping in the backwoods of Montana and that sounds like my worst nightmare. I live for a good burger and she’s been a vegetarian since middle school. Sara has more school spirit than anyone I know, and I find it a little cheesy. We shouldn’t be friends, and yet, because of student affairs, she is one of my best friends in my life and in the field.
Sara and I met while we were both Resident Directors at beautiful Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, California. I was in my third year when Sara joined the team and I was a little taken aback by her energy, enthusiasm, and her shocking lack of interest in the Harry Potter series. More than anything, I was constantly surprised by her confidence. I say that because the department had a very strong culture, and Sara wasn’t afraid to respectfully, but doggedly shine light into the corners of the room that hid the problems and dysfunctions of the group. And she did it with a smile on her face!
Somewhere along the line of working with Sara for two years, I realized that her skills, passions, interests, and approach to the work was wildly different than mine, and that was exactly why I needed her in my life. Sara pushes me. She disagrees with me. She approaches the work differently than I do, and that makes both of us better. I constantly bounce ideas off of Sara, call her and ask her to poke holes in my logic, and ask for her advice or just to process. We both care deeply about our students, colleagues, supervisees, and student leaders, but do so in very different ways. I think this makes both of us better professionals.
Too often in this field, we surround ourselves with like-minded people, with folks who confuse support with blind allegiance. I’ve realized in our nearly six years of friendship and that I’m a better professional when surrounded with people who accomplish the same goals in different ways. Get out of the echo chamber. Go find someone like Sara.
[Sara Agostinelli is the Assistant Director of Residence LIfe at the University of Montana and recently started doctoral coursework. She is a proud alum of the University of St. Catherine and Washington State. In her free time, she loves hiking with her two dogs and partner, experiencing the mountains, and poking holes in Marci’s emotional logic. Connect with Sara on Twitter at @AgostinelliMT]