My Evolution

The Second Year Starts

Posted on October 20, 2008. Filed under: My Evolution, Uncategorized |

Week 4 is about to start. I am one-tenth of my way through my second and final year of graduate school and this is the first opportunity I’ve had to write about it. Perhaps this has something to do with the fact that I spent a significant part of both Wk 1 and 2 out of the state and fighting my first real cold in a number of years, but I’m not quite willing or ready for Week 4 to arrive.

There’s something about this second year that feels oddly stressful. I think this comes from a somewhat irrational belief that the start of this year shouldn’t be at all stressful. After all, I should have my full program of study in front of me (NO), be completely solid on my area of specialization (NO), have a clear understanding of the exact departments and jobs I will be focused on come job search season (NO) and have memorized my competency plans like the back of my own hand (Hey, look at that new freckle, where did that come from?). The truth is I have come into this year with much greater expectations of myself and perhaps as a result have been dealing with feelings of inadequacy that definitely rival my first year.

I’m sure that some of these feelings will dissipate as the term unfolds and I create greater structure for myself and my future pursuits. Right now I’m in the process of solidifying my potential change in area of specialization and making sure I can get the classes I need in order to graduate. I’m in the process of developing a plan of action to create new challenges within my assistantship and am looking forward to the new ones that will come my way in my internship with UESP. As for the job search, I’m not quite sure that will be solid any time soon, there are still too many variables at play and I don’t feel obligated to put myself in this or that corner right now. As for the portfolio and competencies well… they are a work in progress. If there is one thing I’ve learned from my organization and administration class thus far, it is that humility can be one of a leader’s greatest strengths. I am humble enough to admit that even after I graduate I will have much to learn about many areas of student affairs. With this being said, I am confident that I have and will continue to increase my capacity to understand and apply all of the CSSA competencies to my daily work and at the end of the day I will be satisfied with this knowledge.

The second year has started out stressful but with any luck it will end with much self-defined success.

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Original hypothesis on connecting Social Justice and Higher Ed.

Posted on July 30, 2008. Filed under: My Evolution |

A few days ago when I visited Santa Clara University I heard the term social justice numerous times. I’ve been meaning to write about this concept for a while, but several things have been holding me back. One is my fear of sounding like an idiot. I’ll be honest I’m still a bit confused about the term social justice and what it means to me. It seems like a buzz word among certain higher education circles right now but I’ve never heard a definition, only a lot of references to it. Another reason for my hesitation is because my current concept of social justice creates quite a bit of cognitive dissonance in my own mind and there are times when I like to ignore such feelings. With this being said, I type on…

To me one of the greatest difficulties with the term social justice is that it easily gets wrapped up with the concept of community service. When I was in AmeriCorps, I thought the two were one in the same.  I thought I was contributing to social justice simply by working at a homeless shelter or lending a hand in hurricane recovery work. Now I see things differently. The term social justice implies more than simply giving back, making the world a better place, or assisting an under-served population; it means recognizing and then responding to the fact that this world is not a socially just place. It means grasping the concepts of unearned privilege and oppression and recognizing one’s place within the systems that create these realities. For me this means not only staring straight in the face of my own unearned privilege, of which I have a great deal, but also recognizing that American higher education contributes and feeds off systems of privilege and oppression. This is where things become problematic for me.

If higher education were removed from systems of privilege and oppression everyone would have an equal opportunity to  attend college. However, this is simply not the case. Going to college is a privilege: a privilege not everyone can afford. In addition not is everyone afforded a quality of K-12 education that properly prepares them for college, and not all campuses are inclusive and welcoming to everyone. Colleges separate/admit people based on factors that they have no control over (wealth of their parents, physical and mental wellness, neighborhood schools that they attended); in other words, colleges are tied up in the system of oppression that affects so many American institutions. This is a harsh statement to make and there may be some backlash for making it. However, I stand by my statement and would be happy to discuss it more thoroughly with anyone who wants to provide a different view.

With that being said, I don’t see colleges as the root of the problem and I think that higher education can help lessen oppression and privilege: there is no way I would be continuing on in this field if I didn’t.  I recognize that many universities support and continue to increase programs devoted to diversifying their student bodies. I recognize that financial aid, indowments and scholarships are available to help off-set the costs of attending college. I know that their are numerous university staff and faculty members who spend countless hours creating programs, writing grants, attending conferences, and working with colleagues to create inclusive environments and lessen the oppression that some students feel before and during their time on college campuses. Most importantly, I know that many students will not learn about the concepts of privilege, oppression, and social justice unless they attend college. In other words, higher education is a two-faced coin, on the one side part of institution of education which contributes to oppression and unearned privilege, and on the other side an institution that can help students recognize these forces and work in their various fields to prevent their spread and hopefully lessen their impact.

Ultimately this is where my concept of higher education’s connection to social justice must be. We must work to create programs that address issues of privilege and oppression. We must support faculty members who challenge students to recognize and respond to these forces. We must continually encourage and engage students in conversations that make them think about these issues not from a theoretical standpoint, but from a personal standpoint. We must find ways to ask the hard questions and probe the hard topics. Perhaps most importantly we must be able to look inside ourselves and decide what we are going to do, how we are going to react once we have learned about the unearned privilege and oppression that impacts our daily lives. I’ll be honest, I’m still years away from coming up with a response that I’m proud of, but I’m getting closer everyday and reflecting on this concept can never hurt. There will be more to come in this area, just wait and see!

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Why evolution?

Posted on May 13, 2008. Filed under: My Evolution |

Having just had my mid-program review and been challenged to incorporate my previous experience as a science major into my portfolio, I have decided that the theory of evolution may provide an ideal bridge between my undergraduate and graduate school experiences. Evolution in the most basic terms is change, specifically change brought about in order to foster greater success. I see my development as a professional as a constant state of evolution. I am constantly trying new modes of thinking, communicating, learning, and doing in order to have the greatest success possible. My professional evolution has taken me far away from the likes of Darwin, chemical reactions, and molecular biology, but I still find myself able to view certain aspects of student affairs from a scientific standpoint. My ways of thinking are still evolving and ultimately that is what this blog is all about… documenting my evolution as it is happening. It’s a real time science experiment and I’m the subject.

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And now for a proper introduction…

Posted on April 25, 2008. Filed under: My Evolution |

Basically I am creating this blog as a way to document and reflect on my evolution from graduate student to professional in the arena of student affairs. In particular, I will be exploring my learning and development as a graduate student in the College Student Services Administration program at Oregon State University. I see this site as a sounding board for my thoughts, questions and “ah ha!” moments that transpire over the course of the two year program. I welcome others to come and join me in the journey, please come and be part of the dialogue. And once again, welcome.

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    The challenges, successes and ideas of a budding (student affairs) professional

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