After spending a year as a part-time graduate student in the Educational Counseling program surrounded by students who had a passion for something I clearly did not: elementary, middle school and high school students, it was evident that becoming a high school counselor was not the path for me. My rationale for this program was to somehow squeeze into a community college as a counselor. After I came to the conclusion to switch programs, I spoke with Dr. Sharyn Slavin Miller and explained to her how I could no longer stay in the Educational Counseling program and would do anything to get into the College Student Affairs program. My prayers were answered when she said the program title and curriculum was changing to College Counseling and Student Development (CCSD) the following year. I was relieved that perhaps the last year I had spent in the “wrong” program, was not a complete waste of time as a majority of my classes transferred; it also affirmed that I was turning onto the right track.
Prior to the CCSD program my primary experience in student affairs came from working at Cal Poly Pomona for two years as a marketing assistant for Associated Student Inc’s Gas Creative Group. Most of my focus included working with those students who had the backgrounds in communication, marketing, photography and Web design. At Gas, we were the epitome of our motto: students serving students. Student groups, faculty, departments and even the President’s office utilized our office to produce top-notch marketing campaigns, publications, Web sites and materials. We felt our office’s creative and relaxed environment, yet professional expectations allowed our student staff to grow immensely (Sanford, 1967 and Kuh, 1996). For the more novice students, I was assisting them in developing their intellectual competence and for those about to graduate, I was reaffirming their purpose (Chickering and Reisser, 1993). Despite the absence of a formal education in student affairs or college counseling, I can look back at my fulfilling experience at Gas Creative Group and acknowledge that to move forward in my career, the College Counseling and Student Affairs program was a must. This program has assisted in developing my knowledge and skill-set that proves beneficial in any position I decide to pursue in student affairs.
The College Counseling and Student Affairs Development program without a doubt has created a larger awareness within me of students and it has provided me with knowledge and resources I did not have prior to the program. Adult Development provided the foundations of student development through a number of theories. These theories have been instrumental for understanding the many identities that students balance each day and for assisting in the definition of what students may be going through based on the different periods of their life or situations they may be in. Schlossberg’s transition theory (1995) is one of the most useful theories in student affairs. Students are constantly going through transitions – from the moment they first begin to college to finding a new group of friends, a new major or a new set of classes. College is a time full of changes for students and being aware of the “4 S’s” of situation, self, support and strategies that Schlossberg describes are ideal. I need to try to understand the what factors affect the situation; consider how the student views life and handles him/herself; figure out what support system the student has; understand the coping strategies that the student is capable of and had access to (Schlossberg as cited in Evans, J., 1998, pp. 112-116). Last but not least, Chickering’s seven vectors of identity development (Chickering and Reisser, 1993) are broad enough to apply to almost any college student and flexible enough to note that a student is not expected to follow each phase, one after another. Between managing emotions, developing relationships, becoming independent, developing competence, establishing identity, developing a purpose and developing integrity – all are valid developments that college students go through. If I am knowledgeable of these developments with students, it can not only allow me to understand the student’s position, but it can also provide the opportunity for me to create programs and situations that will assist in the student’s overall development.
Multiculturalism has always been a vital part of my life and my values, whether I was conscious of it or not. Through the course, The Role of Diversity in Student Affairs Practice, by talking with peers about social justice issues and by becoming more involved in multicultural programs myself, my value for multiculturalism has proved to be even stronger. I have begun to attend diversity colloquiums hosted by the University of La Verne’s Diversity Coalition and shown interest in joining this coalition. From an increased awareness for social justice and of my own White privilege, I continually try to be an advocate for those with less privilege.
Two of the theorists that will always be with me, regardless of my position in student affairs is Baxter-Magolda and Rendon. From the moment I first read one of Baxter-Magolda’s articles, I quickly connected to her theory of self-authorship and the importance of a student creating a strong belief system (Baxter-Magolda, 1992). Rendón’s validation theory is especially important when working with such nontraditional students who may be coming from low-income or first generation families. Providing validation through encouragement, support and affirmation that the students can achieve their goals and dreams gives them a sense of self-worth. It is also noted that when students have a better sense of self-worth, they are more likely to get involved, which adds to their student development (Rendón, 1994; Astin, 1985).
As I look forward to the next few years of my career, I have no doubt in my mind I will remain in student affairs. While I currently enjoy working as an admission counselor, I feel a piece missing – that piece is having a closer relationship with college students. My primary audience I work with in admissions is high school students and their families; typically these students are less than a year away from becoming college students, however, something still feels missing. I have brought these thoughts of the desire to have more undergraduate interactions to the attention of my supervisor; she is graciously working with me to find ways to become more connected with La Verne students. Possible opportunities in the future include assisting with the supervision of office interns and assisting in events involving La Verne students. I have also been provided with the opportunity to become an advisor for Kappa Delta Sorority at Cal Poly Pomona starting this summer. By finding other areas to fulfill this missing piece, my hopes are that I will remain content, yet challenged, with my admissions career.
In the next three to five years, I believe I will find myself either staying within admissions with the possibility of working with current college students on the college campus or venturing into the area of new student programming and orientation services or multicultural services. I would like to have the chance to be more of a constant influence in college students’ lives by applying the theories and practices I have been taught. Through new student services or multicultural services, I feel I could leave a deeper impression on students. And there is always the possibility of falling back to one of my other passions of editing and marketing with the help of college students; a similar position as my previous job at Cal Poly Pomona. I am open to future possibilities, and while these are just a few possible paths that I am interested in, God has a plan for me and that is the one I will be following.
While my first intentions for going into an educational counseling program was to work at a community college or at a high school as a counselor, I transferred into a student affairs program, a place where I felt was my calling. The master’s program has strengthened my skills and abilities to further my future in student affairs, yet at the same time as I work as an admission counselor with high school students and I read their essays that contain some of the darkest and most unsettling experiences, I sometimes wonder if I will eventually end up at a high school, counseling these same type of students. I do not take back my part in my path that has lead me to where I am today as I continue my career journey. I am eternally blessed for the people in the classroom that I have shared the last two years of my education with; these are the people who have shaped my thoughts and beliefs through the many discussions that have sometimes been intense and emotional. My cohort and faculty members have showed me the many lenses that exist in the microcosm of student affairs that I am thankful.