My Way

My father is a man of little words, but oh how he likes to give advice sometimes! Although when I call him after a bad day at work, instead of advice he tries his best to cheer me up. He told me once, not too long ago, “Tabby. Do the right thing in your own way, and know that you did your best”. It’s probably the best advice he’s given me. My father doesn’t have shining moments like this all the time, but when he does…they are really great moments we share. However, my father still doesn’t understand what Student Affairs is, what I really do in my job, or the politics at institutions of higher education.

Doing things “your way” can sometimes be difficult when you work at an institution that is so deeply rooted in tradition. I am used to hearing “this is the way we’ve done it in the past” and the “that’s how it’s going to stay” attitude. We have all heard it before – change doesn’t happen overnight. That is the most frustrating part of getting anything started, as well as getting stuff moving along. Although creating change can be scary to some, as professionals we need to learn to take risks sometimes.

In Student Affairs, many of us pride ourselves in being agents of change. One of the best qualities about being a new professional is that we are so pumped up in going into the field for the first time that we are ready to take on the world (cue in “Eye of the Tiger”). However, at times, we get discouraged to move forward when the challenge seems too much to take on; but we must always keep in mind why we chose Student Affairs as a career. Whether you had a great collegiate experience, or you were that student who had a really bad academic advisor, or you just want to help shape the minds of the future – you have a purpose. That’s the essential piece of creating change.

Change is sometimes necessary to improve the quality of learning for our students and ourselves. I have recently experienced individuals questioning what I teach to my students about leadership, and how and why I teach it to them. My students are not used to have a very involved advisor like me. I facilitate a variety of teambuilding and communication activities with them. I give motivational talks when they are disappointed. I teach them to not blame or point fingers. Their past advisor was rarely ever seen. Therefore, this was a much needed change for each individual student as well as the organization as a whole. However, students are not going to like everything about what they learn (Hello, dualism!). As educators, it is in part our responsibility to expose students to new concepts, and allowing them opportunities to apply those new skills. The same goes when we are working with colleagues and administrators. When we are working together towards a common purpose, we have to explore together the different lenses in which people may see the world. We have to step out of the comfort zone and give new approaches a chance.

Learning never stops in Student Affairs. Even as we discuss our experiences in this blog, I bet many of our readers are referring back to their “Theory of Student Development” book. I’m sure you are glancing at it right now, sitting on a shelf in your office with a smile on your face (shout out to Schlossberg’s Transition Theory which inspired me to write this post). I also hope that you remember my father’s words and that with full confidence you can say “I did my best” in any given situation. Give your best in all that you do. Trust in yourself when you are faced with obstacles. Change and risk-taking can be nerve-wracking, but remember your purpose and keep going. Whether it’s your way, or someone else’s way…hey, at least there’s several options, right? Keep exploring, colleagues! 

Tabatha Cruz
@ tabatha_cruz

Student Affairs - the First Years

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