August brings fresh goals, dedication and excitement of the quickly approaching academic year. One way my department looks to revitalize its’ professional staff members is through its annual retreat. For two days more than twenty staff members share ideas, plan for the year and most importantly, laugh and bond over the common lifestyle we share in residence life.
During the retreat, I had the opportunity to learn from some of the best hall directors about what they learned during the first few years in residence life. Many of them shared funny conversations with parents while others shared intense stories of on-call experiences. The more seasoned professionals continued to emphasize the importance of work/life balance and having free time to do with what makes you feel fulfilled. However, being a Millennial, I have been raised to constantly jump at any opportunity to further my goals and to never turn down experiences to further my education. While at the retreat these conflicting pieces of advice and my personal perspective came to head; would becoming more involved on campus sacrifice the balance new hall directors are desperately trying to cultivate?
A colleague at the retreat told me that free time is the best time to be busy. How does a new hall director who is looking to make an impact on student and campus life balance having free time with taking advantage of professional development opportunities on campus? Do you use your free time to invest further in your staff or do you spread out across campus involving yourself in campus committees and initiatives?
Upon reflecting on my experiences and what has made me a better professional I considered a number of factors. One, what are my goals with my student staff and what are my goals as a hall director? Two, what tasks in my position do I find most fulfilling? Three, how much personal time do I need to be able to be a happy and high functioning student affairs professional? As I thought about finding new opportunities on campus with my partner, we both agreed that to be a successful partner and colleague, I needed to have at least three nights a week free per week to satiate my introverted ways. However, I also found that I would have a few extra hours during the workweek to explore other opportunities on campus because as a returning hall director I am lucky enough to also have a second year graduate assistant experienced in holding judicial hearings and meetings with my student staff. I also learned in my first year as a hall director, that I am most satisfied in my job when I can work with colleagues outside of my department utilizing my residence life skills. I appreciate that my department and supervisor are willing to accommodate my interests and encourage taking advantage of these opportunities.
Therefore I ask, how do you balance taking advantage of other opportunities on campus versus keeping extra time for your core job responsibilities and personal life?
Jess Colwell is a residence hall director at Boston University.