by Ryan Morgado
It’s that time of year again. A generation of students are embarking outside the walls of academia and making room for the new generation incoming this fall to start their own journey. It warms my heart to see the last remaining students I knew at my undergrad finishing school and the students I worked with just last year at my graduate school moving on to bigger and better things. I’ve exchanged some phone calls, emails, or text messages with some reminiscing about times past and it reminds me how much I appreciate this profession.
This got me thinking about the concept of our impact, our legacy, what do we leave behind when we’re gone? This is a conversation I’ve had more and more as a professional with my students and how they can impact the organizations they are a part of, but I never stopped to think about how this applies to me. I poured over memories, meetings, triumphs, and heartbreaks, searching for meaning about what legacy I may have left behind. Thinking through all these details led me to two main perspectives: the people, and the institution.
I am a firm believer that we are the sum of those we choose to surround ourselves with. I don’t mean to suggest we don’t have any autonomy, but have you ever noticed small mannerisms that resemble those you hang out with most? An inside joke you repeat subconsciously? The way you laugh at something kinda funny versus something that makes your sides hurt? People have a profound impact on how we think about the world, how we think about ourselves, our emotions, etc., and these “people” can be total strangers or beloved family members.
Not every student we work with will be affected by the work that we do, but we mean a great deal to those who are affected. Just this past month I received an email from a student long-lost from my days as an orientation leader. I hadn’t spoke to her almost since the day of orientation, but she still had my email and reached out to tell me how comfortable I helped make her feel as she nervously arrived on campus that day.
Thinking about the students that I worked with transitioned my thoughts to the institutions I was a part of. Where does my legacy lie there? As I continue to process it, I’m much less optimistic about the impact of my work in the actual offices I worked in. As the students, advisors, and mentors I knew leave the places I’ve been at, I feel as though my legacy goes with them.
Maybe I haven’t worked at a school long enough to have an opportunity to leave the type of impact I’m talking about, or maybe I’m in too low-level of a position to understand how to leave an impact at the institution rather than the people. But, I know most of us are in this field because we were impacted by advisors/mentors as a student. So when I think about my “legacy”, I like to think about the Maya Angelou quote above.
So, what do you think is the type of legacy you want to leave/have left behind? Do you have a different perspective on the types of/number of legacies?