Dear First Years Graduate Students

By Meridith A. Balas

Dear First-Year Graduate Students,

Just one short year ago, I was in your position and since then, I have had many incredible (and sometimes funny) experiences that quickly turned in lessons learned both in and out of the classroom. As I begin my second year as a student affairs graduate student, I’d like to share one lesson that has completely redefined my attitude and my practice.

Allowing yourself to love a new university doesn’t mean that you’ll love your alma mater any less.

Whether you just graduated a few months ago or you worked for a few years in between, you likely have a deep-rooted sense of pride, allegiance, and love for your undergraduate institution – as you very well likely should! In fact, so many student affairs graduate students are pursuing a degree in higher education because they had some type of impact or insightful experience as college students and often, that experience is closely linked with an undying sense of school pride.

The best way to love your new institution is to get involved and give back, and I promise that if you find a way to do this, that college or university will show you what makes it special and of course, what makes it worth loving.  Just like there were traditions and events that you remember fondly from college, the students here have their own favorites and with a little exploring, you can discover these too. In fact, by getting to know your new school outside of the classroom or beyond your specific office, you’ll find ways to better relate to the students who you work with in simply becoming familiar with different facets of the campus culture. Whether it’s that late night tradition on the quad, the university-wide dance marathon, or perhaps even involvement with an office on campus that aligns with your interests, find a way to get involved and take advantage of the short time you have here to discover what it’s like to be a part of this unique and exciting community.  

As student affairs professionals we will likely work at a number of institutions throughout the course of our careers and with that in mind, I’d like to leave you with a quote from one of my wise and thoughtful mentors, Dr. Laura Dean:

“I like to think of school pride as a candle. You can continue to light candles for the new universities you join without ever having to diminish the flame that burns for your alma mater.” 

Student Affairs - the First Years

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