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The Start of Year 2: Worklife

Year two of grad school is underway – we’re already two weeks in! If you’re feeling ignored by me, I send you my sincerest apologies.The past two weeks have been crazy. This is usually how the year starts out, but I seem to forget over summer and winter breaks. 🙂

Anyway, I thought I’d give you a blog update on my life, because there are few things I enjoy more than the opportunity to write (with all disregard to APA formatting).

To catch you up to speed, I’m in the second year of my two-year Master’s program. In May I will graduate with a M.S. (Master of Science) in Student Affairs and Higher Education. What does that mean? At the most simplistic level, this means I am qualified to work at a college or university. People with this degree manage residence halls (“dorms”), organize leadership events on campus, advise students on what classes to take, provide students with career advice etc. Usually the follow-up to me stating my degree is, so what do you want to do with that? And at this point, my answer will probably start with, “I’m not 100% sure, but…”

Two weeks in to my second year of grad school, if I had to choose a job this very second, it would be a “Student Success Coach” (who also teaches a class or two!). Student Success coaches “…work with a student one-on-one to create a success plan tailored to the student’s needs, goals and interests, helping students to choose courses; select a major; find scholarships, internships and study abroad opportunities; develop an e-portfolio; and launch their career. The goal as a Success Coach will be to know each of your students on your caseload inside and out. You will serve as their point person of contact for the entire University, with attention to their curriculum, co-curricular, financial and career development.”

What do I like about this? The fact that I have the opportunity to develop relationships with students. It’s not simply a one-time “Hi, how can I help you, bye”. This type of position focuses on holistic development and genuine relationships – two of my primary values. And I threw on the additional teaching part because I love teaching.

This semester I am teaching two courses. One is through my assistantship with Career Services (this is my job at Miami University – I work 20 hours a week). The second class is through my practicum. A practicum is technically a second job (the general commitment is an additional 9 hours a week).

  • Class 1: EDL 290: The Nature of Group Leadership

    • What’s this class about? This is a 2-credit course specifically offered to upperclassmen students living in the Scholar Leader community. This means that they all live together in the same building, so they’re a close knit group! The class focuses on topics of identity (Who am I?), teamwork, values, power, privilege (What extra privileges do I hold as a white person? What privileges do I hold as a straight person? etc.), and social justice – all in the realm of leadership.
    • Quick facts! I meet with my class of 17 students once a week. We meet for 100 minutes and a lot of the class is discussion-based. There are some readings, but much of the period is filled with different activities and conversations. It has a reputation of being an engaging and rewarding class, so I hope to uphold that!
  • Class 2: EDL 100: Career Development for the College Student

    • What’s this class about? “This course is designed to take students through the process of clarifying career and/or academic goals. Students will do research assignments and activities designed to help them to learn about themselves and how to apply this information to career decision making.” At the end of the semester, every student in my class will have a resume, LinkedIn account, goals for their Miami University journey, experience attending a few different Career Services workshops, and [hopefully] a better understanding of who they are and where they’re headed.
    • Quick facts! I meet with my class of 22 students once a week. Like my other class, we meet for 100 minutes. This class does not have ready-made lesson plans (like the other class), so I spend a lot of time planning what we are going to do during that time. Generally it’s a mix of large and small group discussion, activities, written reflections, videos, guest presenters, and workshop time. It is my ultimate goal that they walk away feeling prepared and confident about who they are and what they are interested in. Will they finish the class and know what career they want to pursue – probably not! – but if they have a better understanding of their values, passions, and interests they will be well on their way. 🙂

Aside from teaching, my other primary responsibility is supervising 10 career assistants in Career Services. These are undergraduate students who review their peers’ resumes, cover letters, and LinkedIn accounts, but also present resume and LinkedIn workshops throughout the semester. They are genuinely a great group of people and a privilege to work with!

That’s the “work” work stuff, but I’m also taking classes. Because #gradschool. My classes this semester include Practicum, Student Success, and Leadership Perspectives.

  1. Practicum Class: This class pairs with the “practicum/second job” I mentioned above. Practicums allow us as graduate students to get experience in different areas of the university. If I didn’t have a practicum, my experience would solely be in Career Services, but since I do, I now have experience in a student activities office as well as a leadership office. The class focuses on discussing these experiences as well as other prevalent issues in the field of higher ed and student affairs.
  2. Student Success: This is a new class focused on exactly what it says, student success. What does success mean and how are students successful in college? A lot of this course looks at retention (Which means: Do students come back to the university each year, or do they leave because they don’t like it, or they don’t feel at home?), it also looks at graduation rates. The big assignment in this class is a 25-page research proposal related to student success, but the topic is entirely up to us!
  3. Leadership Perspectives: This course focuses on leadership contexts and who we are as leaders. We will be studying how to best structure resources so students experience tranformative learning. Much of this boils down to understanding who we are as leaders and how we can interact with others in leadership contexts. At the end of the semester, I will have a Leadership Philosophy Statement. Another big part of this class is a case study. Our instructor will make up a situation (that could happen in real life) and as small groups, we will make decisions regarding resources, staffing, mission, and vision as if we were dealing with the issue in real life. We will learn how to structure environments to best promote learning.

So, needless to say, I feel busy! But I’m busy with things I truly enjoy doing – for the most part (sorting through emails could go) ;). This semester is about refining who I am and what I value. I will be putting a lot of thought into the type of position and institution I want to work at come May when I graduate!

When I look at the clock and think, “How in the world did 3 hours already go by?”, I know I’m working on something I am truly passionate about. People always talk about work-life balance, but I’m not convinced being able to “balance” those two things is key. In the book I am using for my EDL 100 course, they talk about a Worklife. Worklife “…ensures when the alarm rings in the morning you don’t feel dread at starting another day, but rather excitement about the path you’re on.” I wish every person could experience that excitement (myself included), and if not, have the courage to change directions.

Cheers.

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