Every year has been a challenge since I started in the field. I understand that the word challenge may imply some negative connotation, but I feel the more you are challenged, the more you grow. I have envisioned this whole experience like becoming a tree. I was a little seed during my undergraduate experience. I started to take up some roots in graduate school. Now as a professional I’m starting to grow a bit taller and am extending some branches. It’s going to be a while before I become a large oak tree, but everyone needs to start somewhere, right?

When I first interviewed for the job I presently have, I remembered being very excited and nervous about interviewing at my alma mater. This was the place I called home for a few years and it’s the starting place of where my adventure in Student Affairs began. As a good alum of the University, I kept in touch with friends and peers to keep up to date about how life at UNI was going. I knew there were some bias and discrimination incidents happening in the campus community: Professors singling out students in class, roommates writing notes to avoid talking to each other, a misleading article in the school newspaper about the KKK, among so many other stories that were left untold. But here I was, applying for a job at the Center for Multicultural Education, thinking “I can help! I want the students to have a great experience here”. I knew with every fiber in my body that I could create change in some way. It was my turn to ask questions at the end of the interview, and in all fairness I asked the following question: What is the CME doing in relation to everything that is happening? The student in my search committee responded with “Nothing”.

Had I been some other type of person, I would have ran for the hills listening to that statement from a student. However, I appreciated her honesty. I had sat in on professional interviews during my graduate experience, and I know sometimes we can sugar coat things to look like an attractive job option to a candidate. Every proceeded to share what they thought the CME was doing – all very positive things. But of course what the student said stuck with me most.

She looked at me and said “We need someone who is willing to fight for our programs. We need someone to fight for our funding. Are you willing to fight?” In a short day dream moment in my head I climb on to the table in an “Oh Captain, My Captain” type of way and scream “Charge!!!!” BUT that’s not what happened J There was a brief moment of silence when everyone looked at each other around the table. I sat there looking at the student in the eyes, and I said “Yes. I’m willing to fight for the students”.

CHALLENGE ACCEPTED! (A reference for my “How I Met Your Mother” fans out there).

Well, long story short, I got the job. And as promised, I fight every day for my students — so they have an opportunity to grow; that they may have the chance to experience this university with the fullness that I did; that wherever they walk on this campus they feel safe; so they can speak their minds; that they find their purpose; and for them to always know that this university cares about them. That’s why I fight. That’s why I accepted this challenge. That’s why I’m in this field, and this is why I know that there is nowhere else I’d rather be working in than in Student Affairs. 

Tabatha Cruz

Student Affairs - the First Years

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