Commission for Student Involvement

Reflection of a Student Affairs Professional

Saul Ruiz: Cal Poly, SLO/Graduate student

I am a Latino male in the field of higher education/ student affairs. I am also a second year Graduate student at Cal-Poly, San Luis Obispo. I am pursuing my Master of Science in Higher Education/ Student Affairs. I recently started working at Cuesta college as a Bilingual Academic Success coach for a Title-V HSI grant that focuses on teacher pathways. My main task is to help Latinx students who have a passion for teaching become future educators. We offer 5 pathways: Early Childhood Education, Elementary Education, Middle/High School Education, Special Education and Career Technical Education. Each pathway is unique and requires different credentials and degrees along the way. Unfortunately, in the city of San Luis Obispo, we are currently experiencing a shortage of teachers, specifically in the fields of science and Math. That is why this grant is key to helping our community prosper in the years to come. We have the talent necessary to fill those voids with our own students. This grant is just the first step in the process and we hope to lead by example. I hope to share more about some unique concepts and strategies I have learned within this job to help promote the field of teaching. In the following paragraphs I will talk about Grants, the importance of joining clubs on campus, and why finding your community will help you find a purpose at your institution.

As mentioned before, my job is funded by a grant. Grants are a source of funding that comes from the government or from private entities and foundations; my role primarily deals with government funded grants. Every institution of higher education has many grants simultaneously happening at the same time. The process towards a grant is simple: You first look for a problem that the campus is facing. Next you do research to provide backup information on how you would solve the issue if money was not a problem. Lastly you write a proposal and submit the grant with your fingers crossed. If the grant proposal is accepted, you then have a grant: money funded by the government for a certain period. Another way to look at grants is to see them as “trial and error.” You have a certain amount of time before the funding runs out to solve the dilemma. Grants can either be written up by the institution’s grant writer or “Institutional Researcher” or by any staff or faculty who sees a need and wants to be part of the solution. Once the grant is given, the grant is posted, and a faculty member must lead it and choose a group of people to work with. The team decides how to carry out all the functions of the grant. The most important thing to remember about grants is that whatever you proposed must be followed. There is little room for changes once the grant has been approved and rolled out.

Every institution of higher education offers students the opportunity to join a club on campus. As a staff member at a community college, you can also join any group, organizations, or planning committee that you desire. I decided to join the Latina Leadership Network, Dreamers club and MECHA. I am also co-coordinating a first-generation program for low-income students called Puente at a nearby institution. I help with the planning and coordination of events that bridges mentors and mentees, once a month. The reason for this is because I wanted to get more connected to my culture and all these organizations promote the empowerment and foster a sense of community for the Latinx student. It gives me a purpose to serve my fellow Latinx students and help mentor them along their educational journey. The reason I joined so many clubs and committees on campus is because when I was an undergraduate, I was not a part of anything on campus and lacked that sense of community. As a staff member, I wanted to feel a “sense of belonging” and being active on campus provides me that community I am missing. Plus being part of a club allows you to be part of something bigger than yourself and allows you to create change on campus and you get to help students develop their leadership and networking skills. I have always enjoyed mentoring students, so this was the perfect fit for me to give back to my campus.

The last thing I have learned is that you must find your support group on campus. You will have plenty of bad days and that is typical in such a high demanding and stressful field like student affairs. Student affairs professionals are constantly helping students work their issues out that it can be easy to forget you also have a life of your own. Always remember to engage in “self-care” and to find your group that keeps you motivated and inspired. Thanks to the Latina Leadership Network, MECHA, Puente and Dreamers, I have found my support group. I have made lifelong friends that have made a huge impact in my life in such a short amount of time. When I am stressed or things get tough, I turn to them and together we work on the issues. We also engage in many self-care activities such as hikes, road trips, and dinner outings. They are my family away from home and they give me a sense of belonging. I once attended a leadership camp back in high school and something that stuck with me was, “if you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go further, go together”. The message behind this quote is that there is strength in number and without my numbers, I would not be where I am today. The world of student affairs is not easy, but it is truly life changing. I love my job and my community!