Monday, July 28, 2008

Congressional Update

Congress may finally renew the Higher Education Act this week:

With Compromises, Higher-Ed Bill Could Move Through Congress This Week

It goes without saying that this legislation will have a large impact on higher education in general, but student affairs practitioners may be especially interested in the provisions dealing with the designation of predominantly Black institutions versus Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Check Out Tyler's Blog

My fellow intern, Tyler Blair, is also keeping a blog about his experience this summer. This week he's asking NASPA staff to write a bit about why they chose NASPA. Just as people enter student affairs for many reasons, NASPA staff have a broad range of backgrounds and experiences that led them to the organization. Check it out:


Path to Student Affairs: NASPA Staff Member Joseph DeSanto

In response to my earlier post, Path to Student Affairs, my supervisor, Joey, wrote up his story. Joey is the assistant director of educational programs here at NASPA.

Joey's path:

How did I get involved in student affairs? It's the people!! Much of the first two years of my undergraduate experience was spent navigating a large four-year institution looking for my niche'. Unfortunately, one of the things no one really tells you about looking for community in a major metropolitan area is that it can be expensive! At the beginning of my junior year I was eligible for work-study. That fact, coupled with a need to bring in more income, resulted in me looking beyond my then job as a employee of the local record shop into something more permanent. My mother (I am and forever will be an only-child) forwarded me a job posting for a mentor in something called America Reads*America Counts (ARAC). Within a short period of time I had applied, interviewed, and was working as a after-school 4th grade math mentor at a local elementary school. Math was never my strong suit and most likely will never be. You can ask my co-workers who see my handiwork on an Excel file! It was the other mentors and most importantly the ARAC office staff who kept me passionate about my work. The math was secondary.

As my first semester with ARAC continued I found myself spending more and more time doing homework, visiting, and consulting with the office staff about school, work, and life in general. Many of them were graduate assistants or graduates of what was to me an enigmatic field called "student affairs". Near the end of that first semester a position opened in the ARAC office recruiting new members and publicizing the program. Any hesitation to apply never entered my mind and the position was shortly something I was proud to call my own. My new role with ARAC lasted until graduation day and during that time period I found new challenges, opportunities and most importantly mentors. Many weren't mentors in the formal sense. I never asked them to be my mentor but they became so through the example set via their commitment to college students and practice of inclusivity. ARAC offered me more than a job. I gained role models both personally and professionally who opened up networks, challenged my thinking while simultaneously being authentic and compassionate.

There were other avenues that facilitated my foray into student affairs and higher education life, but the leadership and service experiences through ARAC were truly unparalled. The people - even more so. The relationships formed during my time there introduced me to student affairs and established a foundation for future study and professional life in the field.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Update on Congressional Activity

The new war-spending bill, signed into effect yesterday, includes education funding for veterans:

Bush Signs Bill That Expands Education Benefits for Veterans

Monday, June 30, 2008

Funding and Congress

Here's a link to an article about bills that will impact higher ed:

Higher-Education Bills Are Among Congress's Unfinished Business

Monday, June 23, 2008

Meet My Mentor

I started hearing about NASPA long before I was a graduate student (actually, before I was even an undergraduate student). Before I knew what NASPA was, I was hearing about partnerships and conferences through some of my fellow trainers at the National Coalition Building Institute (NCBI). I started training with NCBI as a high school student and have continued on for more than nine years now.

NCBI has a large campus affiliate program and at our national meetings I would hear reports from campus trainers about all of their cool work on campus. A few would talk about other organizations they were working with. NASPA came up frequently in that context and one trainer in particular, Lori Ideta, Ph.D., talked about the importance of her involvement in NASPA. Lori's commitment to giving back to her profession and professional organization, as well as her skills and knowledge of student life, impressed me.

When I applied to graduate school and told Lori that I was going into student affairs, she offered instant support and I am honored to call her my mentor. As I write this, Lori has just stepped into a new role, vice chancellor of student affairs, at the University of Hawai'i-West O'ahu. She shared some of her background and philosophy with me recently. (For grad students who may be feeling a little overwhelmed or uncertain about things, make sure to read her last answer.)

Michael Parrish: What drew you to student affairs?

Lori Ideta: Similar to many of our colleagues, I was not born with the goal of becoming a student affairs professional. I “fell” into the profession when I was exposed to wonderful student affairs staff as an undergraduate and graduate student. My first career path was elementary education. I soon learned that I could continue to be an educator – at the university level – by helping students shape their careers and life skills.

MP: What was your first job in student affairs? What has the path from that position to your current position included?

LI: I started as a student assistant in an office of academic advising and I was hooked. I loved the ability to assist students in their matriculation through college. My first full-time position in student affairs was working in the Dean of Students Office, as the assistant to the dean. This role entailed doing anything and everything the dean wanted and needed. What a great experience to empower me to become a student affairs generalist!

Similar to many women colleagues, my career path has been a “crooked” one as opposed to a straight line from an entry-level position to senior student affairs officer. I never dreamed of becoming a vice chancellor for student affairs. I remain amazed at how blessed I have been with mentors who have lifted me as I climbed and with the wonderful opportunities that have been put in my life journey.

MP: Who are you mentors and how did you get connected to them?

LI: Dr. Doris Ching, vice president for student affairs, University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa and Aunty Alberta Pualani Hopkins, retired interim dean of students, University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa were both formal mentors. They both were trailblazers who were ahead of their times. As women, as Asian women, as women of color, they carved paths so that I, and others, could follow. Dr. Ching was one of the first Asian female vice presidents in higher education in the nation. As a student, she was my role model. Both she and Aunty Pua provided opportunities, formal and informal, professional and personal, to ensure my growth and development. To both of them, I am truly grateful.

I have also been blessed with numerous other mentors – colleagues, co-workers, staff, students – who have served as guides, sensei, and leaders to me. They are too numerous to mention, but they all hold a special place in my heart. It is important to note that a mentor does not need to be someone who is of a formal “higher” rank than you.

MP: You have been involved in knowledge communities within NASPA, especially the Asian Pacific Islanders Concerns Knowledge Community (API KC). Why is that work important to you and how does your identity inform your professional practice?

LI: I am so incredibly proud of my Asian heritage. As a Japanese American woman, the ability to now follow in the footsteps of Dr. Ching and Aunty Pua – to make paths so that others may follow, to lift others as I climb, is a true honor. From my cultural context, it is imperative that we give back to our people, that we nurture our own, that we are empowered to ensure the success of our own communities. It is with complete humility that I now assume the role of national co-chair of the API KC to, in some small way, attempt to return what has been so generously graced to me.

MP: Anything else you'd like to share with grad students in the field?

LI: Persevere. Be tenacious. Refuse to give in. Institutions of higher education were designed to be elitist and exclusive. They were built to “weed” people out. So, when you think you cannot continue, when you believe that you are done, when you rationalize that a graduate degree really is not that important, resist the desire to resign. Call a friend. Reach out to a mentor. Connect with a colleague. Have a melt down. Stomp your feet. Shout out. Cry a lot of tears. Then, get back to work. Once you attain your graduate degree, no one can take it away from you. It will probably be the most difficult academic endeavor of your entire life. But, it will be yours and yours alone. Graduate degrees are earned, not gifted. You can do this. And you will. The world needs you.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Path to Student Affairs

I got my start in student affairs as an undergraduate. I had a rough freshman year, one that I jokingly describe (much to my mother's horror) as the year I dropped out of college twice. More accurately I transferred at semester and then stopped out to go to work full-time at the end of the academic year. As it turned out, spending a year working on campus was the best thing I could have done.

I served as an AmeriCorps Team Leader for the Montana Campus Compact at UM. I supervised a team of 10 part-time members who ran various poverty and literacy related programs like Habitat for Humanity and America Reads/America Counts. Although I was working full-time at the Office for Civic Engagement, the year provided me with the opportunity to explore what I wanted to do when I went back to school (despite my not-so-stellar first-year experience I knew I would go back). I was also hooked on student programming.

Upon returning to school the next fall, I signed up for a part-time AmeriCorps term of service. I worked as a service-learning liaison for the Drama/Dance Department and helped to build a course for advanced students to get them involved in Artsbridge, a national program that places art students in public schools to teach through their artistic medium. Aside from working with the students who took the course, building curriculum and working with faculty also proved to be intriguing and professionally satisfying.

During my senior year I worked as the co-coordinator of the MultiCultural Alliance at the University Center (UM's college union). This job provided me with the opportunity to explore campus climate issues, collaborate with staff, faculty, and administrators, and create programming that spoke to our particular cultural context. This work led to the implementation of the Day of Dialogue program which is still in its third year. My connection with the MultiCultural Alliance also included co-teaching a one-credit course called Intergroup Dialogue during my sophomore, junior, and senior years.

Student affairs permeated not just my 'student life', but my early professional life as well. I found things I was passionate about...and some things I was decidedly not passionate about. One of the cool things about student affairs is the broad scope of our work, as well as the many paths professionals take to get into the field. I would love to hear about how and why you got involved in student affairs. How did you know it was the field for you? Leave your stories in the comments.