Student Affairs: the field where others matter the most

by Dylan Ruffra

About two years ago when I decided to go into the field of Student Affairs, it was because I wanted to make an impact on students and create a better experience for them. As I am in my third month of my first full time position I have realized that the exact opposite has happened. While I do believe I have made an impact on multiple students’ lives, I believe that other professionals and students have made a greater impact on my life. Since I have left North Dakota it has given me an even greater appreciation for those that were around me and helped me grow.  Then I have also learned about those situations where sometimes you have to throw all your knowledge about student development out the window and just care for the student as a person. It is interesting the way students can impact your journey when you are really trying to impact theirs.
Being in housing, you are always around students. You see them at their highest highs and their lowest lows. Whenever you see them at their lows, it sometimes can take a strain on you as a person.  You want to try to help them as much as you can, but you can only do so much as a professional. You can only offer so much help or advice, but ultimately the decision of what the student does is up them.  I think one of the hardest things about trying to help students is when they are involved in situations that you cannot change. Trying to help students who are having problems with registration, financial aid, or some academics can be a hard thing to deal with. One of the biggest things I have been learning is how to separate what happens at work and not taking it home with me.
As I have been at a new institution, I never realized how much I would actually miss those around me.  It is interesting to see though social media all the development and growing that the former students I had worked with are doing and not be there to experience. I was fortunate to get to work with many great students and I know they are doing great things and will continue to do great things. Every time I see a post about some of my former students doing awesome it brings me excitement. At the same time, it is so great to have colleagues in multiple different places that I can rely on for help whenever I need it. While it is crazy to not see all the people I was in class with or the other people on campus, it is great to know who I can email when I need it. There are a couple of times that I have been looking for ideas, suggestions, or feedback and it has been good to reach out to former supervisors and colleagues.  Even though I am in a different place, it is great to hear all the great success my former students and colleagues have been up too.

I am so eternally happy that I got into a field where I can help impact people’s lives, but they can impact mine as well. It is great to hear different student’s stories and trying to help them any way I can. Each day I get to go into the office and have a conversation with a colleague or a student I know I am right where I need to be.  Impacting each student’s time in college, helps me make the most of my experience.

Student Affairs - the First Years

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