It’s hard to believe, but we’re finally here: the end of another summer. Yes, for many of you I realize that August has only just begun, but for those of us in Student Affairs, the work year has officially kicked off. For many of us, the light at the end of the tunnel comes in December when we get to leave our homes on our college campuses and travel back to spend a short amount of time with our loved ones.
While this might sound a bit pragmatic, I can assure you that most of us love our jobs. For many of us just beginning work in the field, however, it can be rather overwhelming. 14-hour days and 7-day work weeks become the norm for many of us, and it can become incredibly easy to see the job as a prodigious monster. Despite all of that, for many of us this is a year of firsts, and I intend to try my very best to recognize some of those momentous occasions.
First submitted graduate school application:
For me, this was my application to Ball State University for their Master of Arts program in Student Affairs Administration. It had been quite a while since I had filled out an application of this importance; after all, I submitted my undergraduate applications to Penn State and Temple all the way back in August of 2006, nearly seven years ago. I was 17 years old and had my entire life planned out already and knew exactly what I wanted to do and where. If you had told me what I would be doing seven years later, I probably would have laughed in your face.
After spending months perfectly crafting my personal statement, tweaking my resume again and again, and securing those ever-elusive letters of recommendation, I cautiously clicked the “Submit” button on my iMac. The feelings that came along with that click were intense and contradictory at times: I was excited, scared, relieved, nervous, hopeful, and doubtful. I had no idea what would come of the process, just that I was excited to begin.
First graduate school interview:
On a frigid central Pennsylvanian day two days after the beginning of 2013, I received a voicemail while I was at work at the Olive Garden in State College. Dr. Mark Kretovics, the professor in charge of Kent State University’s Master of Education program in Higher Education Administration had reviewed my application materials and wanted to meet me in person to discuss the program. That initial phone call had turned my already emotionally messy self into a complete train wreck. At that point, I was barely considering Kent State and already had my mind set on traveling to Muncie, Indiana to spend my two years studying there. Despite my initial uncertainty, I accepted the interview offer and dragged my dad along with me to Kent, Ohio.
The day itself was freezing (of course) and I met Dr. Kretovics in his office where he was dressed in khakis and a Hawaiian shirt. Being a tightly wound spring and bundle of nerves for the 207 miles it took to drive to this interview, his incredibly friendly demeanor and reception immediately put me at ease. Without going into much detail, this was the day that truly swayed my decision to attend Kent State. When I got a phone call at the end of the week while attending a birthday party in New Jersey, Dr. Kretovics told me that I was accepted into the program. The feelings of joy and relief were on a level that I imagined could never happen again.
First assistantship offer:
Then came the assistantship interview process. Spending two more frigid late-February and early March days in Kent and interviewing with college after university for over eight hours took a serious toll on my mind, body, and spirit. At this point, I was only considering assistantships at Kent State, primarily because of its similarity to Penn State and the ease of travel and work. Then I met with several staff members from the University of Mount Union. It was located about 50 minutes southeast of Kent, and I already had my mind made up that I wanted to live and work in Kent. I was asked back for several follow-up interviews with Mount Union throughout the day, culminating in a late-night drive to Alliance, Ohio to visit the university and meet with some current graduate assistants and other staff members. This was the visit that changed the direction of my assistantship search. I immediately fell in love with the campus, its staff, and the students that I met that evening. I knew that this was where I wanted to spend the next two years growing as a professional and learning alongside many seasoned returning staff members.
After two weeks of self-deprecation, stress, insomnia, and mild fits of panic, I got a call that the University of Mount Union wanted me to join their family. The feeling that I experienced in that ten-minute phone conversation was so incredible: when I called my mom afterward to give her the good news, she told me that she was able to hear the excitement and relief in my voice. After several years of confusion, soul-searching, major-changing, and hard work, I was finally ready to begin my career as a Student Affairs professional.
Now, as I stand on the cusp of my first August of training, my head swims with a myriad of thoughts, expectations, worries, excitements, fears, and triumphs. I am so proud to have made it to this point in my personal and professional life, and I would be incredibly remiss if I were to forget to mention my undying gratitude to my parents and family for dealing with my rollercoaster of emotions and thoughts during the last several years. So many people have been involved in helping me to get to this point, and I have to say that I am truly grateful. I am immensely excited to join such a strong, close-knit, and incredible community of professionals, and talking about some of my “professional firsts” makes me even more grateful to be in this position today.