by Katie Yeaton
Hey y’all!  Can you believe it?  The Student Affairs First Years has been going for six years?Coincidentally, that is exactly how long I have been in the field.  Starting as a wide-eyed, eager-to-get-involved first year undergrad to the professional I am today, a lot has changed, particularly my reason for doing this work each day.  I initially got into the field because I wanted to help people.  I loved how leadership, social justice, activism, education, and lifelong learning could be all packaged into one position.  I enjoyed working with young adults early on and I found enjoyment in “motivating the middle”, including and inspiring people who had yet to consider themselves leaders.  My overall mission to help others is why I entered the field; my reason to get up each day and do it well has changed.

If I had to limit my advice to one tidbit, I would encourage you to find your “why” and be understanding if it changes.  I get up each day and decide I want to continue in Residential Life because it is one of the limited positions where I can help someone connect with financial aid and empower them to communicate more effectively with their roommate.  I get up some days to help my Resident Assistants (RA) process through tricky situations and assist them in navigating a roommate mediation.  I wake up some days to a duty call where I am able to help with a resident with a mental health concern.  I sleep in some days to stay up late and assist with our Campus Activities Board with school dances and I get to see what amazing things a student team can accomplish.  Some days are difficult as you never know what to expect in this field, but perhaps that’s what makes it exciting.  My reason for getting up each day changes, but my mission and overarching goal remains the same.  I choose to help people and, hopefully, I help make a positive impact on their lives so they build autonomy and confidence in themselves, ready to take on the world.

I once had an RA say, “in order to complain, someone needs to be coming from a point of privilege”.  Any time I feel stressed or overwhelmed, this quote calms my nerves.  I am extremely fortunate to work in this field, at my institution, with wonderful students.  The work I do will hopefully inspire and create positive long-term impact on students’ lives.  I choose to be happy each day and I remind myself that I am an intersectionality of multiple points of privilege.  I have found reason to continue working in the field to help students access resources, continue school, and go beyond college.  I am passionate about learning more and advocating for others who are not heard.  I hope to continue finding inspiration in my everyday conversation with students and colleagues to progress in the field.

Find your WHY.  Be accepting of yourself when it changes and be patient with yourself to know if you need a new experience--in a different department, school, or field.  Remember each day is new and YOU have control.  YOU can make it positive.  YOU can make the difference in someone’s life, even though you may not know it at the time.

My overall advice for staying in the field: Write out your reason for going into student affairs.  Be authentic and candid.  Be real and transparent.  Once you have your WHY, jot down all the positives of your job.  When you think you’re down, set the paper down and return to it in a few days.  Add what you missed or a special memory from that week.  Let this be your vision board, let it remind you why you continue to do what you do.  Continue to challenge yourself, add new experiences to the board and try new opportunities.  

Student Affairs - the First Years

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