I would imagine that most in the Student Affairs field look at the beginning of each academic year as the chance to start fresh. There’s always a new group of fresh faces venturing onto campus, the grounds are well-tended and looking sharp, the bookstore is overflowing with supplies, and opening day ceremonies offer inspiration for a great new year. For some, like myself, there may be other changes that make the beginning of this academic year particularly fresh and perhaps that much more important when it comes to making sure it starts off on the right foot, whether it be a new position, new institution, new focus, etc.
But what does starting off on the right foot mean? While there isn’t a solitary answer to this question, there are some key points to consider when you’re preparing to kick off another year in Student Affairs.
1. Mental Preparation– It may not be on your to do list, but it’s important to be in the right frame of mind with the start of the school year. For those employees who are on 10 or 11 month contracts, you’ve got to dust off the sand, shake the water out of your ears and get ready for business. For those who’ve been working all summer, it’s time to slip out of the doldrums and back to the quick-paced world of the fall semester. The specific means by which you prepare your mind for the change is a unique and individual experience, but for me it means easing my way back in with brainstorming and positive thinking about what is to come. Sure, I know I’m going to be insanely busy through August, but if I look at it as an exciting time, it becomes a good stress rather than an overwhelming one.
2. Organization of Physical Space– You may be moving offices or simply reorganizing the same desk, but either way, it’s important to refresh your work space. Clear off old materials that you won’t need. Make sure you have important materials in easy reach and conveniently located to achieve necessary tasks. Setting aside a work space in the home is also a good idea, since we’re bound to bring work home every now and then.
3. Communication with Staff– Communicating clearly with supervisors, colleagues, and student staff members is an important part of starting off on the right foot. Expectations should be clearly expressed. And perhaps more importantly, proper welcomes should be extended to begin (or maintain) good rapport and a comfortable working situation. Which brings me to the last point.
4. Proper Welcomes to Staff and Students– Student staff members are about to go through an intense training and a busy academic year. Returning students need to readjust to campus life. New students need to feel that sense of belonging. All of these things can be facilitated through a proper welcome. A proper welcome may include emails or Facebook groups prior to arrival; newsletters and bulletin boards upon arrival, information, small tokens of appreciation, etc. The most important welcome is a smiling face and positive communication.
While those include some very general aspects of starting the year off right, everyone has their own unique methods. I like to work in themes, creating my training sessions, welcome packets, etc. around it. And I absolutely insist on a fresh, clean agenda planner to start of the year.
What’s your method for getting the year started off right?
Devon Purington is a Residence Life Coordinator at Penn State University-Hazleton.
This article has been cross-posted at A Patchwork of Student Affairs, a blog of random thoughts on Student Affairs.