Let me start by saying this – time flies. It feels like just yesterday, I was an #SAgrad beginning my job search but here we are, a year later, and I’m an #SApro. As I reflect back on my time in graduate school, I not only recognize how quickly it went by, but the development I experienced along the way. When I started my program, I knew I was going to do a national job search and make a move to a new place. My wanderlust was ready for the next adventure.

As I hit my second year, things changed and I knew that a national search was not what I wanted after all. While the number of days to graduation decreased, I began to reframe the way I prepared for my post-grad plans. After conversations with colleagues and mentors, I was able to use the following strategies to frame my job search.

Reflect on your values.

At the start of any big decision making process, it is important to take the time to reflect on what matters to you. What keeps you motivated and fulfilled? What values are significant to you? What do you need to recharge?

As you begin to look at job descriptions and potential employers, take the time to review their mission and strategic plans. How do their goals align with your values? Is their “Why” something you can support and buy into? Will the work you do allow for congruency between your job responsibilities and values?

Taking this time for self-reflection will help keep you in the right headspace and serve as a guide to navigate the journey ahead. It can help identify the types of positions you apply for, questions to ask in interviews, and decisions you make along the way.

Know what you’re looking for.

Or at least have an idea of it. You have likely spent time learning about functional areas and the ins-and-outs of higher education. At the start of your job search you likely have an idea of the area(s) you want to work in. I was often told limiting your job search locally means you must broaden the types of jobs you would apply for. This can open up the number of opportunities available to you.

With that said, it is important to think back on the self-reflection piece. If you are genuinely open to a job, then go for it! But if you know it’s not what is going to keep you from hitting snooze in the morning, you won’t be doing yourself or your future employer any favors. Stick to your values. Limiting both your functional and regional areas has the possibility of a longer search if there are a small number of positions. At the end of the day, make the decision that is best for you.

Take the time to reflect on the skills and experiences you have and what you are hoping to develop. Then read through position descriptions to see if they can provide those experiences for you. Are there certain issues or initiatives you are passionate about? Ask for opportunities to incorporate that into your role or perhaps serve on a committee. This ties back to knowing what fulfills and motivates you. There are very few jobs that will have ALL the things you are looking for but there may be opportunities to incorporate them in other ways.

Additionally, think about the needs you have outside of work. In my search, I wanted to be in or near a big city, close to a major airport, and have access to good food, the arts, and entertainment. This helped frame some of the information-gathering I did during my search.

Build Your Network.

We are a people profession and utilizing your network can be a huge help. Work with your colleagues, faculty, and alumni to help setup informational interviews and connect you with other Student Affairs professionals. Attending a conference or program in the region you are job searching in is also a great way to build this network.

Don’t wait until the day before an application is due to utilize these connections - continuously work on them as a graduate student and beyond. While they can be a huge help you in your job search, they can also be great partners in idea sharing, collaborations, and professional development opportunities.

Remember, your decision is perfectly okay.

It can be both challenging and rewarding to navigate a job search with your peers. There are few times in your career where you will have a cohort of colleagues navigating similar experiences and this support system can play such an important role in your search. You may disperse across the country and even around the world, but the learning and growth you have had together will be something you pull from in the years to come. When we play the comparison game with each other, it can make the job search a struggle.

No search looks the same as another. Just like each individual has their unique narrative, the same applies to the job search. Some may submit 75+ applications while others submit a handful. Some applicants have a job 6 months before graduation; others may receive an offer 6 months after. The number of applications you submit or on-campus interviews you have does not determine your worth or the validity of your job search choices.

This process is yours to mold. You have taken the time to reflect on what is important to you, what you want in your next step, and the network you have to help get you there. While this is not an exhaustive list of strategies or be entirely applicable to your process, I want to thank you for allowing me to support your job search endeavors. Enjoy the ride this journey takes you on and remember to uplift each other while you are on it.

Cristina Pérez currently works at the University of Georgia as the Senior Coordinator for Staff Development where she coordinates professional development and community building experiences for staff. She received a B.A. in Political Science from California State University, Fullerton. After graduation, she spent two years as a Leadership Consultant for her sorority before moving on to Clemson University. There, she earned her M.Ed. in Counselor Education – Student Affairs while working on training and development initiatives for Residential Life. Cristina enjoys reading, knitting, exploring new places, and the occasional Netflix marathon.

Twitter: @CristinaPerez11

Patrick Love VPSA New York Institute of Technology

Here it is early May and you are still without a job. Your peers are posting on Facebook, Twitter, and your grad program listserv the jobs they have been accepting. You are happy for them, but each announcement hurts you a little bit more.

Do not despair! We have merely reached the middle of the annual student affairs job search process, not the end. Yes, you are staring commencement in the face so it feels like the end, but it isn't. It is the middle!

Based my experience as a former grad program faculty member and the conversations I have had with my faculty colleagues, about half of the second-years have jobs before commencement and the other half get jobs after commencement. And actually, we have entered the "May lull" in the job search. With the year wrapping up, commencement activities occurring on campus, and the Memorial Day weekend coming later in the month, most searches slow to a crawl until the very end of May.

During May, there is also a distinct shift in the "attitude" of some employers. In February and March just as you were shooting for your top jobs, employers were shooting for the very cream of the crop--people with incredible resumes from highly-reputed programs. You are reading this post because you didn't get any of your top job choices and you are still looking; well, some of those employers didn't get their top candidates and they are still looking. Come June they start to feel the same pressure--they have jobs to fill and have a July 1 or August 1 start date in mind. The candidates they may have skipped over in March will now be on their radar. So, I recommend you do two things:

1.         Send a note with a fresh resume and letter to any institution you applied to earlier in the spring but have not heard from. They may or may not have filled the position. If they haven't, they often will assume that folks who applied in their first round are long gone. Let them know you are still available, interested, and excited about the possibility of joining them.

2.         Look for early June placement conferences. For example, the New England Student Affairs Placement Conference (NESAPC) takes places on May 28th and 29th. It is perfectly timed to take advantage of institutions looking for people and people looking for jobs. Having participated in this conference when I was a director of residence life it was incredible how open employers and applicants were to each other. I recall getting some great candidates from there.

May is also a time for you to take stock and plan for the next couple of months. Reflect on and consider these questions and actions:

  • If you have had interviews (either on campus or via phone or Skype) and didn't get the offer, did you ask for feedback? If not, try to get that now.
  • If you haven't done this already, consider having a mock interview recorded at your Career Center. People avoid this because it makes them so uncomfortable; however, you may learn something important to improve your interview performance.
  • Have you created a portfolio of your work? This is a great way to make you standout among candidates.
  • Have you restricted the type of job you are applying for? Consider a second option and while continuing to apply for your first choice job type, add at least a second type of job.
  • Have you restricted your geographic location? If yes then consider expanding beyond that. Sure you are from the Midwest and you want to work in Los Angeles, but finding a job anywhere in California gets you closer to your dream city.
  • Have you restricted the type of institution you would consider working at? If so, challenge yourself on that decision. Go beyond your comfort zone and be open to discovering that you can serve students no matter the type of institution you choose.

I encourage you to work hard to manage your stress. You WILL get a job!

Feel free to tweet your job search questions to me at @pglove33. Also, buy my book: Job Searching in Student Affairs: Strategies to Land the Position YOU Want.

As part of Careers in Student Affairs Month, we have invited individuals from different ACPA entities to share their unique perspectives on the field through Career Spotlight Q&A pages. We hope these will be a valuable resource for individuals considering work or graduate school in student affairs and higher education. This submission is from Robert Aaron, representing the Commission for Assessment and Evaluation. For more information on the Commission's work, please visit their webpage

Why did you choose a career in student affairs?

I, like many others, fell into student affairs after serving as a resident advisor during my junior year of college. I was a music major, based on many years of studying classical piano. The piano had always been my escape from the world, so I became wary to make it my career. However, I found my work as an RA to fit me well - I enjoyed helping individuals on my floor in addition to planning larger educational programs. After researching what a career in student affairs actually looked like, I soon learned that student affairs would fit my career personality better than working as a full-time musician.

Why did you choose your particular functional area?

After working in the areas of student activities, fraternity/sorority life, and first-year experience/new student orientation for several years, I found myself developing larger-picture research questions about groups of students. Some say I "caught the research bug," so to speak. I decided to pursue the PhD in higher education in order to better understand the research process and attempt to answer some of my questions. Through this process I came to learn that I was a bit of a data nerd. I also learned that my work in higher education could ultimately serve more students when I was able to explain certain trends based in data to major decision-makers in the field. I realized I have always fallen into the role of "data translator" in other jobs I have had (good with technology, could explain a complex process to new students and their families, and so forth), and now I found an opportunity to combine my interest in helping students with my new-found acknowledgement that I could absorb a set of data all day and not get bored! Student Affairs Assessment, for me, has been a really wonderful combination of numerous things I have learned since starting my master's degree in higher education and student affairs 20 years ago.

What does a typical work week look like in your particular functional area?

I feel lucky that a typical work week involves feeding both my introvert and my extravert. In my present position I lead a talented staff toward helping over 35 functional areas with their assessment, evaluation, planning, and research efforts. As such I spend time with staff getting organized to do a variety of projects, with colleagues coaching on conducting assessment, and alone analyzing data and writing reports. In addition I spend a significant amount of time educating others on how to conduct assessment and research in student affairs. No two weeks are alike in this field, and I feel very fortunate to have an engaging position allowing for interaction with talented colleagues in addition to spending some time alone.

What is the most rewarding part of your job, and what is the most challenging part?

The most rewarding part is helping a colleague to realize a way to improve a program or service to students based on data results we have shared. In addition I enjoy empowering both colleagues and students with using data in an appropriate way to impact student learning. In terms of challenges, sometimes we run into data sources that are just BAD. Either they weren't collected properly in the first place, or the analysis has somehow gone haywire. This creates a barrier toward actually making improvements for students. When we plan accordingly, usually we can mitigate these issues ahead of time, but we certainly do not live in a perfect world!

What is your top piece of advice for individuals considering a career in your functional area?

My top piece of advice for anyone considering a career anywhere in student affairs is to develop a set of questions that interest you and ask many different people for their responses. You'll get different responses, all of which are CORRECT. You need to find for yourself how you will incorporate their answers into your own decision-making. Specific to student affairs assessment, I think those interested in it need to be comfortable with a variety of ways of collecting data and also need to have a willingness to keep learning more. In other words, KEEP READING. Keep up with the current literature in the field, and then help others make connections between that literature and their practice.

In your opinion, what are the top three attributes needed to be successful in your field?

  1. Enjoy helping others make decisions informed by multiple data sources;
  2. Enjoy learning something new every day;
  3. Enjoy juggling multiple projects at one time.

What do you believe will be the key trends, issues, and challenges in your functional area in 10 years?

Increasing demand for services with decreasing resources over time will need to be handled in creative, innovative ways. The demands are driven by numerous factors including technology, access to higher education, increases in diagnoses of special needs populations, and many others. All of these external issues have a significant effect on the types of data needed to make decisions for growing with the future.

What additional resources would you recommend to a new professional in your functional area?

Quickly get involved in a professional association related to your work. Some of my best colleagues are at institutions all over the country, thanks to the good work of organizations like ACPA!

To help celebrate Careers in Student Affairs Month, we are happy to have ACPA's Doctoral Intern Mei-Yen Ireland share a personal reflection on her experience in the field and as a graduate student.

We all have stories about how we came to the field of student affairs.  For many people it was through personal experiences as undergraduate students in areas such as residence life or orientation.  For some, the area of student affairs that initially drew them to the field is the area that continues to be their professional home.  One of the great things about a career in student affairs is the opportunity for our own personal development while creating opportunities for our students to grow and develop.  My career in student affairs has not been a linear path.  Student affairs has provided me the opportunity to continually evolve personally and professionally.

My entry into the field of student affairs came through my involvement in co-curricular service-learning.  I enjoyed participating in service-learning throughout my undergraduate experience and worked as an AmeriCorps civic engagement coordinator at my alma mater after graduating.  I was drawn to a career in student affairs because I saw the transformative impact service-learning could have on student learning and development and I believed that there was also a reciprocal benefit to the community.  To me, experiential learning and co-curricular experiences enable student to engage with social issues in tangible ways that may not occur in the classroom.  The opportunity to learn through real world issues and have an impact on those pressing social issues was a goal that I was eager to adopt in my professional work.

During my six years working in student affairs and focusing on service-learning, I was exposed to complexities, not only within the social issues around which the service-learning was structured, but within the bureaucracy, privilege, and stereotypes that make service-learning in higher education challenging.  I learned about the limitations and assumptions service-learning could place on students who may not always come from privileged backgrounds but in some cases from within the community being served.  I also noticed the ways in which service-learning could lack the reciprocity that is generally thought to be a guiding principle of community-university partnerships.

Over time I realized that, despite my questions about the idyllic possibility of service-learning, at its core, I still believed that student affairs could create powerful opportunities for promoting student learning and development while addressing social issues in the larger community.  I returned to graduate school in higher education and student affairs in an effort to explore my belief that higher education has the opportunity and responsibility to positively impact both student learning and the local community.  Along the way I found myself drawn to two-year institutions as models for how institutional missions could pursue a social justice focus with tangible and positive effects on social issues and the local community.

Two-year colleges have at their heart the goal of meeting the needs of their local community and decreasing inequality through the educational opportunities they create for students.  However, their goals have many challenges such as the large numbers of nontraditional students, lack of funding, and strict accountability measures.  Throughout my graduate work my research interests have focused on access and retention of underrepresented students at two-year colleges and the many complexities two-year institutions face with the changing economic landscape.

Influenced by my early career work in service-learning, I have come to see that higher education’s context is not just its own isolated environment, but there are interactions with external social and policy structures that need to be illuminated.  I think higher education has the potential to be a strategy for equity, and I see access to and success in higher education as inextricably tied to social issues, such as racism and poverty. The next evolution of my career in student affairs is marked with questions about whether education as a strategy of equity is a viable mission and what role student affairs can have in shifting higher education toward this goal.  A career in student affairs is an opportunity to promote the learning and development of students and ourselves.  I am hopeful that we will all embrace the questions and complexities of the work we do in student affairs and strive to use these questions to shape the culture and promote the powerful outcomes that are possible in higher education.

As part of Careers in Student Affairs Month, we have invited individuals from different ACPA entities to share their unique perspectives on the field through Career Spotlight Q&A pages. We hope these will be a valuable resource for individuals considering work or graduate school in student affairs and higher education. This submission is from Vu Tran, representing the Commission for Social Justice Educators. For more information on the Commission's work, please visit their webpage

Why did you choose a career in student affairs?

Like many others in the field, my undergraduate college experience was highly influential in my entrance into student affairs.  It was due to the cultural centers at my institution that I was able to ask and explore the "Who Am I" question, which inspired me to pursue this field and pay it forward.

Why did you choose your particular functional area?

As a PhD student studying student affairs, I am grateful for the full-time experience that I received working in Residential Life. There is no other functional area that offers the same type of "real time" student interaction in the way that Res Life does.  It challenged my sometimes "over-romanticized" perspective on Res Life and taught me that working with students meant working with ALL students - not just the high achieving ones or a particular subset of students.

What does a typical work week look like in your particular functional area?

In Residential Life, it really depends on the week.  But mostly, it includes a lot of meetings. I like to think that Res Life takes the motto: "It takes a village...". In that sense, the village needs to be well-coordinated and communicate with one another to be able to successfully support individual students.

What is the most rewarding part of your job, and what is the most challenging part?

The most rewarding part of Res Life was experiencing "lightbulb moments" for students. It could be through an RA training session, a program, or a conduct hearing - there were so many various interfaces that allowed for me to expand a student's thinking and exercise my abilities as an educator. 

The most challenging part for me was navigating "Res Life subculture." As someone who never worked in Res Life before becoming a Hall Director, I had to quickly pick up on the unwritten rules of working in Res Life.  For those who are in similar situations, my advice is to find someone who will be willing to answer your "silly" questions and be patient with you. If that's your supervisor - great!  If not your supervisor, find a colleague. But don't be afraid to ask questions!

What is your top piece of advice for individuals considering a career in your functional area?

There are two kinds of people who enter Res Life: those who know they are "Res Lifers" and those who are unsure. I tended to think of my Res life experience as being an "Undecided Professional" (similar to being an undeclared major). Given the breadth of functions that Res Life entails, use it as an opportunity to explore your professional interests and work towards the question of "What do I want to do when I grow up?"  

In your opinion, what are the top three attributes needed to be successful in your field?

Adaptability, listening, and learning.

What do you believe will be the key trends, issues, and challenges in your functional area in 10 years?

Cost of on-campus living is going to always be an issue, but I believe it will be more prominent given the current state of financial conditions that many institutions are in. I think that soon, if not already, institutions will be making difficult decisions that involve the tension of cost-efficiency and student experience.

What additional resources would you recommend to a new professional in your functional area?

Consider taking a class - in anything, really. While some people are uncertain about whether they want to pursue a terminal degree, I think that everyone deserves to at least entertain that question for themselves.

As part of Careers in Student Affairs Month, we have invited individuals from different ACPA entities to share their unique perspectives on the field through Career Spotlight Q&A pages.  We hope these will be a valuable resource for individuals considering work or graduate school in student affairs and higher education.  This submission is from Valerie Glassman, representing the Commission for Student Conduct and Legal Issues (CSCLI).  For more information on the Commission's work, please visit their webpage.  

Why did you choose a career in student affairs?

Until my senior year of college, I was set on working in television journalism as a news producer. However, my incredible experiences as an RA, orientation leader, and work-study employee in the Office of Student Life exposed me to the great work that my mentors performed on a daily basis. I appreciated the counsel, leadership, and role modeling from the student life staff, and I soon realized that I, too, could pursue this as a career. As they had shaped my college experience in such a positive way, I hoped that I could also serve my students in the same manner.

Why did you choose your particular functional area?

I could say that student conduct fell into my lap, although that isn’t telling the whole picture. I started in my senior year of college, serving on the university’s appellate board for academic dishonesty cases after the dean of students asked me while I was working at the Student Life front desk if I’d be interested. I enjoyed picking apart pieces of the cases, looking at whether a student met the grounds for appeal or if the mitigating circumstances merited a second opinion. In graduate school as a live-in graduate supervisor of a 1300-student residence hall, I was required to serve as a judicial officer to meet with residents for low-level violations involving alcohol, noise, candles, and the like. I loved these meetings with my students, talking about decision-making, values, goals, and how their behavior aligns with the expectations and ambitions they have for themselves. When a new position opened at Duke in the Office of Student Conduct, I jumped at the opportunity to make this my primary professional functional area. Ultimately, I believe that the conversations that take place in the framework of the student conduct meeting can be the most transformational for a student, providing a space for a student to learn and reflect about why they are at the institution and how they can best accomplish their goals.

What does a typical work week look like in your particular functional area?

As an assistant dean of students, one of my responsibilities is to serve in the dean on-call rotation, which provides 24/7 crisis management and emergency support to the campus community. Mondays are spent wrapping up the weekend and reviewing all of the reports submitted to Duke Police and our office involving students. This includes not just reports of student misconduct but also of mental health concerns, victims of crime, medical attention, illness, and injury. Every other Tuesday morning the entire Dean of Students Office staff convenes. Our team includes the Office of Student Conduct, the Duke Student Wellness Center, Parent and Family Programs, and DukeReach (case management). During the remainder of the week, I am often found meeting with individual students in conduct hearings or with organization leaders whose groups are reported for potential policy violations. I am also responsible for the maintenance of our office’s Clery Act accounting and frequently serve as an advisor during our conduct board hearings. This semester I am also facilitating a class for a group of outstanding sorority women and fraternity men through the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life called Duke Greek Emerging Leaders.

What is the most rewarding part of your job, and what is the most challenging part?

It is an overwhelming and rewarding experience when a student who has made some poor choices in the past recognizes how their behavior is influencing their personal journey and makes a concerted effort to turn his or her life around. To see a student who has been dependent on alcohol be sober for six months or a student who was suspended for plagiarizing become an advocate for academic integrity is very powerful and reminds me of the true value of my work. On the other hand, the most challenging part of my job is when a student just doesn’t seem to “get it.” It is also extremely difficult when our university experiences a student death. Losing a student to homicide, disease, accident, or suicide is a community-wide tragedy that affects nearly every person at the institution. It is physically and emotionally trying, and as a staff member, I have to do my best to be a support to those who need me and continue to do my work.

What is your top piece of advice for individuals considering a career in your functional area?

You can’t take it personally when a student is defensive or angry about the position he or she is in. It’s tough when you’re talking with someone who thinks that the policy (or law) is wrong and is trying to justify his or her choices, or when you know that someone is blatantly lying to you. It’s our responsibility as conduct officers to explain the policies we have and why we have them, the role of the disciplinary process in maintaining the safety, welfare, and integrity of our community, and to role model positive decision-making in our own lives. Further, being a conduct officer is not just about deciding whether there was a violation of policy. We are almost always speaking with a student from a holistic point of view to determine if there’s more going on than what was first described. Every week I refer at least one student to Counseling and Psychological Services or to the Academic Resource Center for additional support. The conduct meeting reveals so much more than what the student may or may not have done; it’s an opportunity for a student affairs professional to get a glimpse of what a student may be struggling with that could require clinical help.

In your opinion, what are the top three attributes needed to be successful in your field?

First, compassion. One of our catch-phrases in student conduct is that “You’re not a bad person, you made a bad decision.” For those students going through difficult times in their lives that have led them to make poor choices, I feel compelled to always let them know that the disciplinary process is not an indictment of their character or representative of who they are as a person. We know that whatever behavior was brought to our attention is merely a snapshot of a particular incident that is not necessarily a reflection of them as a whole person. I also think it helps the student for the conduct officer to demonstrate humanity. Next, as I alluded to above, having a thick skin is important when the student you are working with is antagonistic or aggressive, but it’s also important to know when to let your guard down. Finally, open-mindedness. What is first reported by residential staff or police is almost never the entire story, and it’s the reason we have face-to-face meetings in the first place. Students come in to speak with us at many different points in their personal journeys. We as student conduct professionals can help them by inviting them, in a “challenging but supportive” way, to realign their behavior with their goals.

What do you believe will be the key trends, issues, and challenges in your functional area in 10 years?

The number one issue for student conduct professionals right now is the focus on policies and procedures pertaining to campus sexual violence and harassment. I predict it will continue to stay in the headlines and at the forefront of educational legislation and policy-making. As they have been for many years, I also believe that hazing, town-gown relations, and substance use/abuse will also remain key trends in student conduct.

What additional resources would you recommend to a new professional in your functional area?

My participation on the Commission for Student Conduct and Legal Issues has been a rewarding and resourceful experience. Through the commission, I have met professionals working in different conduct roles in a number of functional areas, and at a wide variety of institutional types. Being a member of the directorate and now a vice chair has given me the opportunity to discuss concerns that affect all conduct officers on a national and local level. I also recommend new professionals actively seek out a student conduct mentor at an institution other than their own, perhaps a supervisor or faculty member from law school. It's nice to have someone with an outside perspective to bounce ideas around and hear words of wisdom! I would also be happy to connect with folks who are new to student conduct and interested in either the commission or want to hear from someone who's been in the field for awhile.

As part of Careers in Student Affairs Month, we have invited individuals from different ACPA entities to share their unique perspectives on the field through Career Spotlight Q&A pages.  We hope these will be a valuable resource for individuals considering work or graduate school in student affairs and higher education.  This submission is from Kate Smanik, representing the Commission for Spirituality, Faith, Religion & Meaning (CSFRM). For more information on the Commission's work, please visit their webpage.

Why did you choose a career in student affairs?

I didn't know I was choosing a career in student affairs, actually.  My master's degree is in theology and I entered graduate school to pursue ordained ministry.  From the moment I realized that I might want to be a minister I knew I wanted to work with college students, not in campus ministry but instead in Chaplaincy.  My passion was never for ministry in a single faith context, I wanted to ask questions of meaning, belief and purpose in a religiously diverse space.  As many chaplains now report to the VP of Student Life or Dean of Students instead of the President we have become Student Affairs professionals by default.  This accidental choice has been a wonderful fit for me.  The intellectual questions of student affairs have become a part of my daily life as I'm now pursing an EdD in Higher Education and Student Affairs at Indiana University.  Ultimately, I would like to research the continuing role of Chaplaincy in higher education.

Why did you choose your particular functional area?

I am fascinated by the interactions between faith communities, and across faith lines.  My work in Chaplaincy has allowed me to explore religious diversity alongside students.  Together we ask questions about how diversity is defined, what it means to respect religious pluralism and how religious conviction can be used to better society.  These are questions that were compelling to me as a college student and I now feel privileged to continue to ask them every day.

What does a typical work week look like in your particular functional area?

This is a tricky question.  I was recently promoted and now have oversight of our Center for Spiritual Life, Center for Peace and Justice, Bonner Scholars Program and Community Service programs. These areas mesh extremely well, but have dramatically changed my working week!  My days are a mix of one on one conversations with students, a range of meetings to attend - I am a member of our Diversity and Equity Committee and the Advisory Committee for our Undergraduate Ethics Institute for example - supervision of staff, and day to day support for our student religious organizations. I am responsible for everything from planning our Baccalaureate service, to supporting students when major events are scheduled on the Jewish High Holy days.  I am sure it is true for many Student Affairs Professionals, but what I love most about this job is that no two days are the same.  

What is the most rewarding part of your job, and what is the most challenging part?

The most rewarding part of my work is the joy that comes with helping students explore and share their faith. For example, over the last few years we have worked to expand our campus celebration of Diwali.  We now have a lovely puja at the beginning of the event, and the only fireworks allowed on campus during the end of the event. Watching our small Hindu population share a piece of their faith with their classmates, faculty and staff is incredible. Last year's attendance at this event was close to 100 people - on a campus of 2300 students that is impressive. 

The most challenging part of my work is balancing the needs of small religious minority communities with the needs of the institution. Some of the changes we've made on campus - installing a washing station near our prayer room - have been easy, but other changes are a struggle. This fall we have had some difficult and important conversations about how we navigate scheduling during religious holidays.  For students, faculty and staff from religious traditions that have a work prohibition on holidays these conversations are critical.

What is your top piece of advice for individuals considering a career in your functional area?

This one is likely to be a surprise - take the time to get a unit of Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE). This training is offered at many hospitals around the country and is designed to help students become competent pastoral care providers in a clinical setting.  It is open to people of all faiths and no faith (atheists welcome!). While it may seem to be unrelated to the work of a Student Affairs professional it is invaluable training for learning how to connect with people during their darkest moments and asses your own place in those conversations. A unit of CPE should be something you can complete over the course of a year, or a summer.  If your background is in Student Affairs this training will also expose you to some of the language used in theological circles.  To work in spirituality it is helpful to be competent in the language of theological study (not necessarily religious studies) as well as student affairs.

In your opinion, what are the top three attributes needed to be successful in your field?

Creativity - This field is changing rapidly.  To adapt we need to be creative and open to new ideas. 

Humility - At some point you will likely say something offensive. It is just too hard to know everything about every faith. Humility will allow you to forgive yourself and be open to the teachings of others so you do not make the same mistake twice. 

Hospitality - Creating space for religious diversity on campus is about welcoming the stranger. Professionals in this field must cultivate a spirit of welcome in their offices and in their person. 

What do you believe will be the key trends, issues, and challenges in your functional area in 10 years?

In the next 10 years Chaplaincy will continue to diversify.  A college Chaplain or Director of Spiritual Life (my previous title) will not necessarily need to be ordained, but instead will need experience with a variety of religious traditions.  The question of who is best qualified to do this work will continue to be of significance, as will questions of how we assess this work.  ACPA would benefit from collaborations with the National Association of College and University Chaplains and the Association of College and University Religious Affairs.  While these people are not trained Student Affairs professionals, and may not see themselves in this field, it is important that we continue to talk to one another.  

What additional resources would you recommend to a new professional in your functional area?

Look broadly at professional organizations.  The Commission for Religion, Spirituality, Faith and Meaning in ACPA will have a lot to offer, but this can and should be supplemented by connecting with ACURA and NACUC - the professional organizations mentioned previously. This work is changing tremendously, finding a good mentor with broad experiences is an excellent way to learn more about the field and become the best possible professional.  

As part of Careers in Student Affairs Month, we have invited individuals from different ACPA entities to share their unique perspectives on the field through Career Spotlight Q&A pages.  We hope these will be a valuable resource for individuals considering work or graduate school in student affairs and higher education.  This submission is from Melanie Guentzel, representing the Commission for Graduate and Professional Student Affairs. For more information on the Commission's work, please visit their webpage.

Why did you choose a career in student affairs?

I was a very involved undergraduate. I loved the campus environment and helping people grow and develop as students and individuals. I enjoyed organizing events, meeting new people, and learning everyday. I also knew that I wanted to be in an academic environment and that my skill set was administrative, so student affairs was a perfect fit.

Why did you choose your particular functional area?

My first position out of my master's was as Coordinator of Student Services for a graduate program. I discovered that I enjoyed working with adult learners in an academic setting. I found the diversity and complexity of working with graduate students energizing and I knew that I had found my place in higher education.

What does a typical work week look like in your particular functional area?

There are a wide variety of roles in graduate and professional student affairs. At my institution I am responsible for directing graduate student services from orientation through graduation so I never have a typical week. I work in academic affairs so I meet with faculty on student issues, curriculum, and student support initiatives. I work with a variety of student life offices on orientation, student programming and campus events. I represent the School of Graduate Studies on a variety of campus committees from academic policy to assessment to student success. I also meet with students, serve as a student advocate,  supervise graduate assistants and advise the Graduate Student Organization. Every week is different and no week is ever boring.

What is the most rewarding part of your job, and what is the most challenging part?

Seeing students succeed in meeting their goals is the most rewarding part of my job. I enjoy working with students and faculty to solve difficult problems and assisting students in completing their degrees. It feels amazing to work with campus partners to pull together programs that have positive effects on the graduate student experience. 

The most challenging part of my job is managing the breadth of my role. I have a lot of balls in the air that all have consequences for students if I don't keep them moving. Over the years, I have realized I cannot wear all the hats and provide all the services. I spend a lot of time developing and maintaining relationships that engage the campus to include and engage graduate students.

What is your top piece of advice for individuals considering a career in your functional area?

My advice for anyone entering student affairs is to know yourself, to be aware of your strengths and your weaknesses and to be able to honestly assess where you need to continue to do work. Anyone considering the area of graduate and professional student affairs should find energy in working with adult learners and faculty members.

In your opinion, what are the top three attributes needed to be successful in your field?

Patience, patience, and patience. It also helps to have good listening skills, an open mind, a willingness to collaborate, and a good understanding of campus politics. 

What do you believe will be the key trends, issues, and challenges in your functional area in 10 years?

In the big picture of graduate education, demographics are shifting which means we need to make sure we are still enrolling and graduating a diverse body of students and that we are providing supports for the fully array of graduate and professional students. Financing of graduate  and professional education is a big concern, as state dollars continue to shrink and federal grant dollars shrink, more cost is shifted to students already burdened by debt from undergraduate degrees. The need to prepare doctoral students for work beyond the academy is also a big issue. Online education is a huge trend in graduate and professional education and I am not sure we know where that is going to go. Graduate and professional student services providers are thinking about who our students are now, who our students will be in the future, what the societal needs for graduate education will be in the future and how we can support students and faculty members moving forward.

What additional resources would you recommend to a new professional in your functional area?

The Commission for Graduate and Professional Student Affairs, the Council of Graduate Schools, National Association of Graduate and Professional Students, National Association of Graduate Admissions Professionals, New Directions for Student Services Monograph on Supporting Graduate and Professional Students, and research/writing from Chris Golde, Susan Gardner, Barbara Lovitts, Mary Ann Mason, etc.

As part of Careers in Student Affairs Month, we have invited individuals from different ACPA entities to share their unique perspectives on the field through Career Spotlight Q&A pages.  We hope these will be a valuable resource for individuals considering work or graduate school in student affairs and higher education.  This submission is from Michael Bumbry, representing the Standing Committee for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Awareness. For more information on the Standing Committee's work, please visit their webpage.

Why did you choose a career in student affairs?

Like so many others, I chose student affairs because of a passion to help and serve others. I had the privilege of having wonderful faculty and staff mentors who supported my academic, social, and personal development. Once I discovered the profession, it was a no-brainer as to what I would dedicate my career to. Although every individual student experience is unique, I partly chose student affairs because I wanted to provide the same mentorship and guidance that was given to me. In addition, student affairs (and higher education) careers offer such a rich and diverse menu of options. One doesn’t have to be in one particular functional area for their entire career. As a millennial and someone who views himself as a generalist, a career in higher education affords the opportunity to do a number of different things without having to leave the college setting. For these reasons and many more, I know that joining the profession was one of the best decisions of my life.

Why did you choose your particular functional area?

I have worked in residence life, the office of the vice president for student development, and now annual giving. Until my transition to fundraising and development in 2014, I had a very prescriptive career in student affairs. I was a traditional college aged student who went directly into a student affairs program, served as a resident director in my assistantship, continued my residence life career for three years in my first professional role post graduate school. I chose and stayed with residence life because it was where I felt I could make the most impact on students. Residence life is such a comprehensive functional area, that one is bound to get a myriad of experiences the eclipse its basic competencies. 

Although residence life is not the first (or even fourth) choice of many wonderful student affairs professionals, I believe it is a great way to learn and develop key skills such as supervision, facilities, assessment, and risk management. These skills are so critical to advancing one’s career in student affairs and higher education in general. It was that mindset that led me to residence life. The transition to the other functional areas was intentional transitions that complemented my doctoral work. My current role in development is a major departure from student affairs primarily because I work mostly with alumni. However, the leadership, team building, volunteer management, and event planning experiences I held in previous roles are competencies that I use daily in my current position in annual giving. The relationship between student affairs and university advancement is continuing to become more apparent across both areas on campuses across the country. The opportunity to couple my doctoral work with professional experiences that support my dissertation and a genuine interest to expand my professional portfolio are reasons why I chose development. 

What does a typical work week look like in your particular functional area?

Similar to student affairs, university advancement does not have a typical week because there are ongoing changes that impact our response to each situation. As a member of the class reunions team at the University of Chicago, I spend most of my time on volunteer management. Specifically, I work with alumni to meet various participation, attendance, and fundraising goals that the institution and I have set. I work with nine different classes that span a decade. Similar to college students at various stages in their four (or six) year experience, my alumni volunteers are at various personal and professional stages in their life that influences their availability, interests, and opinions about the University. Outside of volunteer management, I see my primary role as an ambassador for the University of Chicago. This means learning as much as I can about updates across the University that may appeal to alumni. Again, this can be difficult to predict because each person has a unique experience. However, staying on top of University news and sharing those updates is an effective way to build relationships with alumni. And in the business of advancement, relationship building is the first step to soliciting and successfully securing a gift for the University and advance the mission.

What is the most rewarding part of your job, and what is the most challenging part?

The most rewarding part of my job is working with alumni who really love their alma mater and are willing to work hard in making it an even stronger institution for future generations. As a long-term volunteer for my own alma mater, Elon University, I know firsthand how difficult it is to balance academic, professional and personal commitments while also volunteering for an alumni board or affinity group. Therefore, it has been very enjoyable and educational to be on the other side of things and work with alumni who love their alma mater as much as I love my own. 

The best part about working in development is also one of the most challenging parts of working in development: the unpredictability of people. Although student affairs have tangible objectives, clear outcomes, and are increasingly demonstrating the value of our work through assessment efforts, development is 100% driven by quantitative goals that gift officers are tied to for the entire fiscal year. The combination of unpredictability and the pressure to meet various dollar, participation and attendance goals was initially intimidating as a new advancement professional. However, despite only being in development for 6 months, I have already learned so much about what goals into creating fundraising goals that are ambitious but realistic. Furthermore, I have applied proven techniques from my colleagues as well as the recommendations from alumni giving literature to inform my work with alumni.   

What is your top piece of advice for individuals considering a career in your functional area?

Higher education will no doubt increasingly rely on private giving from non-tuition sources. Therefore, university advancement professionals will become even more part of the university wide conversation on how to best support, retain, and graduate students. This lends to a mutually beneficial relationship between student affairs and advancement professionals. I would advise someone interested in a career in university advancement to research the current literature on private giving to higher education, including alumni giving. Understanding the current and projected future landscape of higher education will be critical to an individual’s approach and ultimate success in this career. I have already benefited in my current role from the knowledge I gained during my doctoral program. A new professional does not necessarily need to enroll in a doctorate program, but doing simple research and reviewing the literature would be very helpful in the short and long term. 

In addition, similar to student affairs, I would recommend speaking with individuals who currently work in university advancement to learn how development works at their institution. There are differences across institution types in terms of programming, approaches, alumni demographics, and much more, so I would suggest that aspiring development professionals conduct outreach with staff at multiple institutions to learn more about the profession. 

In your opinion, what are the top three attributes needed to be successful in your field?

The ability to ask for money- the number one reason why alumni do not give to their alma mater is because they are not asked. In order to be a successful development professional, one has to be comfortable with asking for money. Although there are loyal and committed alumni who give annually to their alma mater regardless of who visits them, being informed and engaged with alumni builds a relationship with them so that the development professional can ask for even more, ultimately maximizing the gift. 

Personality- Although being a development officer does not require the most extroverted person, it does require the ability to authentically engage with others in a meaningful way.  When it comes to philanthropic interests, there are also several options for alumni to choose. A successful development officer must be able to make the case in a sensible, concrete way that illustrates the potential impact that gift will make towards the institution’s purpose. This is the case whether the gift officer is soliciting a $20,000 gift or a gift of $50 because the smaller gifts tend to develop into larger ones. Ultimately, development is driven by the relationship between the gift officer and the alumnus/a. As such, the former must be willing to invest the time and effort to cultivate relationships with alumni if they want to be successful. 

Persistence- In most cases, development officers will hear “no” more than “yes” from alumni. Yet, persistence and positivity are great attributes to have because it encourages development officers to stay motivated in meeting the end of fiscal year goals. Student affairs professionals generally have these traits in their blood because of the complexities and politics of the work. Therefore, student affairs professionals would do well in this area of development given their general can-do attitude. 

What do you believe will be the key trends, issues, and challenges in your functional area in 10 years?

I think that the number one challenge for advancement officers, not just development officers, will be the diversification of the student body which means a more diverse alumni body.  Although more diverse student and alumni bodies are great things for the future of higher education, research has found that institutions are not well equipped to meet the needs and interests of diverse groups of alumni. This coupled with the lack of racial/ethnic minorities in advancement professional roles (only 9% according to CASE in 2014) highlights the need for increased attention to how advancement professionals engage and solicit alumni of all backgrounds. Given the importance of diversity and inclusion in student affairs and the significant relationships that student affairs professionals have with students, I think that senior administrators will continue to see the increased value of student affairs and advancement partnerships. These partnerships are mutually beneficial, particularly for leveraging support for student affairs programs that attract diverse donors. It is also helpful for advancement professionals in building an understanding of alumni donor interests and further cultivating relationships.

What additional resources would you recommend to a new professional in your functional area?

There is a growing list of resources to support aspiring and current advancement professionals in higher education. In terms of professional associations, the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) and Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) provide ongoing professional development opportunities around the world and online. There are also regional and specialized conferences that are more accessible, affordable, and relative to unique interests. Other associations also host conferences dedicated to development officers who work in student affairs divisions. They may also have student affairs fundraising and external relations knowledge communities that provide resources and leadership opportunities. The Chronicle of Philanthropy is also a quick, effective, and affordable way to stay connected to philanthropic news across higher education and other non-profits, and informs professionals about best practices and future trends. Finally, I would recommend anything that Dr. Mary Beth Gasman (University of Pennsylvania) or Dr. Noah Drezner (Teachers College at Columbia University) has written, as their research focuses on alumni giving from diverse populations and history of development from traditionally underrepresented groups. I have learned so much from their work, which has inspired me to commit my doctoral dissertation to alumni giving among underrepresented people as well.

As part of Careers in Student Affairs Month, we have invited individuals from different ACPA entities to share their unique perspectives on the field through Career Spotlight Q&A pages.  We hope these will be a valuable resource for individuals considering work or graduate school in student affairs and higher education.  Leading off is Susan Mendoza, representing the Commission for Academic Affairs.  For more information on the Commission's work, please visit their webpage.

Why did you choose a career in student affairs?

Like many of my colleagues, I was actively involved in student life as an undergraduate student.  After graduating and "entering the  real world", I realized that may greatest joy was in helping others learn and make sense of their learning.  University life presents immense opportunities for intellectual , emotional, social, and spiritual growth.  I wanted to work within the spaces that facilitated moments of learning.

Why did you choose your particular functional area?

I serendipitously found my currently role.  My functional area is broadly defined as academic affairs.  Specifically, I work within undergraduate research and scholarship.  My role allows me to work with both faculty and students on projects and programs connected to scholarship, research, and creative pursuits.  This type of role speaks to me because it allows me to use my expertise in student development, university culture, and retention to create contexts for teaching and learning.  I love the complexity of my work, specifically the intersection of the rigor of disciplinary learning and teaching with many supportive services that student affairs provides.

What does a typical work week look like in your particular functional area?

I don't have many typical weeks, rather programmatic cycles.  My position incorporates large event planning, grant management, advising, visioning and strategic planning, assessment, and research.  Generally in one week, I will have multiple classroom visits, student consultations, faculty meetings,  grants to review, and campus meetings to attend.  My position is quite varied and dynamic, both in schedule and in the type of work.

What is the most rewarding part of your job, and what is the most challenging part?

My greatest rewards come from seeing students walk down the pathway of research.  I enjoy seeing how their ideas take shape and evolve.  More so, I enjoy seeing them as scholars and making the transition from simply consuming knowledge to critically engaging with scholarship and then to creating their own.   Discovery by proxy, if you will.  The greatest challenge is in providing the types of programs and grants that are needed in each of the academic disciplines.  Each tradition is so fundamentally different  that one needs to be an adept generalist to meet the needs of all faculty and students.

What is your top piece of advice for individuals considering a career in your functional area?

To be a student affairs minded professional on the academic side of the house, one needs to know and understand the academy.  My professional path took me from residential curriculum to co-curriculum to pure scholarship.  I have found that there are incredible opportunities in the space between faculty and student affairs, but the chasm between the two is not for the uncommitted or the faint of heart.  There is a need to be able to shift between the faculty and student affairs cultures, and translate between the two.  The best way to begin this is simply by showing up.  Attend academic lectures, faculty senate, student presentations.  Become engaged in the intellectual life of your students.

In your opinion, what are the top three attributes needed to be  successful in your field?

Three attributes... First, an authentic drive to learn and understand.  Working in higher education, learning needs to be at the center of your praxis.  It may manifest in various ways, the authentic desire to be engaged in the learning process in critical.  Second, an ethic of care.  Our business is about the success of our students.  Success can be defined in a variety of ways, but it should always be punctuated and framed by an ethic of care.  Students should leave our institutions with the skill sets they need, but also the confidence, and the positioning to have a positive impact on their lives and professions.  That ethic should extend to our colleagues, our communities, and ourselves.  Third, the ability to hold space.  When I use that phrase, I am speaking figuratively to the ability to create an environment.  We each should have the ability to hold space for learning, conversation, and dialogue.

What do you believe will be the key trends, issues, and challenges in your functional area in 10 years?

The biggest trend I am seeing is the quantification of success and the impact of the quantification.  As we accelerate the need to quantitatively define and measure success for our students, we are not only bound by definition of success, but also by our measures.  Within undergraduate research, many institutions are deepening and expanding programs due to the current research that demonstrates the positive power of such experiences on retention and graduation, not to mention skill acquisition and general satisfaction.  This issue becomes one of capacity and scaling up.  How large can we make these programs without losing the quality of the student experience.  A secondary trend worth mentioning is open access.  This is one we don't always intersect with in student affairs, but is key within the research and scholarship community.  How will the desire to move scholarship from behind the paywall of expensive journals impact the experience of our faculty scholars and our student scholars?

What additional resources would you recommend to a new professional in your functional area?

For someone who is interested in transitioning to work in academic affairs, I would recommend some reading into the structure of the academy and faculty culture.  For many of us, this means revisiting some of the books we used in graduate school  as a starting point.  In addition to brushing up on theory, I would recommend reaching out to functional professional associations.  In my area, this includes the Council on Undergraduate Research and the American Association of Colleges and Universities.  I have found an enormous amount of information that has been relevant and also provided common language with my faculty colleagues.  I would also recommend connecting with the Commission on Academic Affairs.  Our functional area is incredibly diverse and dynamic.  I have found that connecting with my colleagues in ACPA to be grounding and refreshing.

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