General Program Themes
As I reflect over four semesters in Kent State University’s Higher Education Administration and Student Personnel program, I can identify long-term value from the material I took away from each experience, in the classroom and in the real world. The curriculum I chose covered a wide variety of specific topics, but several over-arching themes come to mind as I summarize my graduate experience: 1) education can be very practical; 2) you need to know who you are; and 3) professional development is vital and comes in a variety of forms.
This is the first word I use to describe our program to peers who are enrolled in similar programs at other institutions or prospective students who are interested in pursuing graduate study in student affairs. I appreciate that not only did our coursework require us to think about how to apply classroom knowledge to our work environments, but two practicum experiences were required for credit toward graduation. Lectures related class materials to real life, and we were encouraged to draw from work experience for anecdotes in class. Courses like Law and Higher Education, Business Administration, Student Affairs Functions, and Case Studies allowed us to discuss current events in our field and identity existing challenges for administrators, while proposing solutions and identifying possible outcomes of the actions we suggested. “Theory-to-practice” became a regular part of our vocabulary in College Student Development and Multiculturalism/Diversity as we intentionally matched relevant scholarship with campus issues and crisis management. I also look forward to discussing four different on-site work experiences with a future employer, and value that I could hand-select those experiences based on my professional goals and passions.
2) Know Yourself
This program taught me the importance of knowing who I am, what I value (personally), what professional identity I intend to carry with me into the work place, what I desire from a work environment, and how I can most effectively work with others based on a knowledge of my strengths and weaknesses. I experienced personal growth during my first semester through College Student Development as I wrestled with the sensitive issue of privilege, and later in Multiculturalism/Diversity as I struggled between personal bias and justice. I now understand why it is important to embrace who am I as I work with students (authenticity is vital in developing meaningful relationships), and I have an increased sensitivity to the needs and feelings of those around me as a result of becoming more confident in my own skin. I have become acutely aware of my strengths and weaknesses, and now understand how I can intentionally develop those skills further. On a practical level, I had opportunities to work in a variety of campus environments and can better articulate the pros/con of different institutional types relative to my personality and work style.
3) Professional Development
Before enrolling in this program, it never occurred to me that professional development happens in the classroom as much as it happens in an outside networking capacity; both experiences have lasting value. History of Higher Education required an archive project that allowed me to research a topic of my choice at a campus of my choice. I reconnected with my alma mater, the Baldwin-Wallace College Conservatory of Music, for this project and had the opportunity not only to interact with valuable contacts and professors again, but also submitted a copy of my final document to the archives staff for preservation at the Riemenschneider Bach Institute; it was a great way make history real to me and contribute a small legacy to a campus I value so much. Student Affairs Functions was taught by KSU’s then-VP for Enrollment Management and Student Affairs, someone who I may not have had the opportunity to network with otherwise. I was given a chance to build a relationship with him, and he served as a reference for my summer internship at the University of Florida. He has now relocated to another campus in the region, giving me a contact at an institution that I would not have otherwise. Additionally, through my assistantship, internships, conference attendance and presentation experience, study abroad, and friendships within my field, I feel that I have gained an excellent skeleton for a professional network that will stay with me throughout my career.
I found it difficult to summarize the themes of our program in just a couple of paragraphs because I have learned so much in two short years. In as much as graduate school was overwhelming and exhausting at times, there have been so many highlights of my learning, both in the classroom and out, that will help me navigate interviews and have aided me to feel prepared for my next steps into the professional world.