by Cassidy Lawson
As I look back on my experiences so far in Student Affairs, it’s really hard to pinpoint just one person who impacted me the most during my progression from undergrad to grad school to professional. There have been so many people that have been a shoulder to cry on, an ear to listen and a helping hand when I needed it. For this, I am truly thankful for all of my mentors.
The first time I became aware of “student affairs professionals” was during my first semester at Appalachian State University in 2008. Like most first years in college, I spent the majority of my time in my residence hall. My floor was co-ed and it could have been a complete disaster, but honestly it was the best floor of first years I could have possibly been surrounded by. I was also in a Learning Community (Community of Servant Leaders) and on the surface, everything was great, but I was going through a lot internally. I was dealing with a really bad breakup from that previous summer that caused me a lot of emotional problems, I had gained weight, I struggled with self confidence and fitting in, I felt like a number at App State, I was homesick, I missed having a car, I was always broke…needless to say, my first semester of college was a bit rough. I remember crying to my RA one night when I had reached my breaking point. She gave me the advice to get involved with our Hall Council and so I became our hall’s secretary. Our Hall Council advisor/Hall Director, Jai, really gave me a lot of advice during my semester we spent together and I really looked up to both him and my RA, Kasey. Who knew that one day I would eventually become an RA and a Hall Director myself? I really thank my success in Residence Life to those two as building the foundation for how I view how to build community and how to be a servant leader.
When I was in undergrad, I was so confused as to what I actually wanted to do. I was an English major and thought I wanted to teach, but I really enjoyed one-on-one interactions rather than big classroom lectures with students. To gain some extra spending money and to get some experience, I became a tutor at the Learning Assistance and Resource Center. That became my part time job (in addition to being an RA) for two years while at Radford and it’s still one of the best jobs I ever had. My boss, Tracey, literally gave me a job so that I could support myself and she gave me so much encouragement, advice, funny stories, and a person I could vent to for two years. I really owe so much to her and I really admired how much she would fight for her students. She is a tough woman and I’m so thankful she was apart of my student affairs journey that led me to want to be a full time advisor.
Last not least, I could not have made it through my first year of grad school if it hadn’t been for my CSPA grad school mentor, Orie. Orie had been a Hall Director the year before me and he helped me get through being a Hall Director when it turned out to be a lot harder than I thought it would be. I would literally come over to his apartment and he would let me do free laundry, help me with my homework, and listen to all my stories about my job. He would give me endless advice and listen to me without asking anything in return. We truly had a great bond while he was here, but he graduated the end of my first year of graduate school and we haven’t gotten to talk as much as we used to because of work and life. However, he is still one of the best mentors I’ve ever had and he helped me through so much.
I’m so thankful for all of these people that have given up their time to listen to me and give me so guidance and advice; I can’t wait to see how many more mentors I will have in the future of my career and how I will continue to be impacted!