NODA Journal

My struggles with self-advocacy

Posted on August 8, 2008. Filed under: NODA Journal |

It’s time to reflect on my NODA internship as a whole and I’m hesitant to do so. I’m afraid because reflecting on this experience is going to mean admitting certain personal failures on my part; certain inabilities to stand up for myself and my needs. The fact that I’m even writing this brings tears to my eyes, but it needs to be out there; it needs to be digested. My intent in writing about this is not to put blame on others for my failures or inabilities, it is only to reflect upon them and how I will seek to better my experiences in the future.

I came into this experience with a learning contract that I shared with my supervisor before I arrived. It outlined the experiences I was hoping to have and focused on the competencies I was looking to gain, as outlined by my graduate school program. For those who are interested the learning contract is posted under my NODA Internship section. I think the first place where I went wrong was not sitting down with my supervisor(s) at the very beginning of the summer and having an honest conversation with them about which experience/competencies I could logically meet and which ones were less likely to happen. Perhaps a happy medium could have been reached early on instead of me continuing to think that it was all possible. I’m quite sure that my supervisors would not have wanted to tell me that certain items were off the table, but had I known this early on it would have been easier to accept. Plus I would have understood that it had nothing to do with my competence and more to do with their policies and procedures.

As I look back at my learning contract the thing that strikes me the most is that a great deal of the experiences I was looking for did not focus around the day-to-day elements of orientation and advising, but more on the theories, trends and issues that influence orientation and first-year programs. Based on this fact, what I really needed and didn’t advocate for enough was one-on-one time to just reflect and discuss the ins and outs of orientation/advising programming with my supervisors. The natural question that arises from this realization is “Why didn’t I advocate for these meetings?”. Well, I can think of a number of reasons, for one thing I got wrapped up in the chaos of the season. It was hard enough to keep up with the grueling orientation day schedules and constant busy work that was asked of me on non-session days. I guess the thought of trying to schedule yet another meeting seemed impossible at times, let alone logically improbable. In addition, both of my bosses used the majority of their non-session day to attend multiple staff meetings, face time on these days was at a premium and I didn’t feel comfortable asking for much of their time. As I write this I am once again faced with the fact that I could have asked, I could have demanded more time. Perhaps I wouldn’t have gotten any of it, but at least I wouldn’t be sitting here wondering.

I wonder if I would have reacted differently if I had been staying in the same position for more than two and a half months. If I didn’t know that I was headed back to an assistantship and an university where I am given large amounts of responsibility would I have been more adamant about my needs? What if I didn’t feel like I still had some time to gain the competencies I couldn’t get here? I’m sure that part of my hesitation to ask for more face time is due to my stubborn independence. I don’t want to come across as someone who needs to have their hand held through everything, who needs to analyze everything down to the smallest detail. At the same time I need to recognize that I cannot learn all I need to learn on my own and that part of being a professional is recognizing the things that you can’t do on your own and asking for help. I hope to take this lesson to heart in the future.

At this point in the summer I am certain that I can’t achieve all the goals I had for my internship, but I can try and make it the best situation it can be. I have already started to set up meetings with various other professionals on campus to get a more thorough understanding of the programs and services available at SJSU. Tomorrow I will schedule some final reflection time with my various supervisors and at that time I will be presenting them with an overview of my job responsibilities this year, along with my learning contract and suggestions for improvements. I may have not been able to have the ideal experience, but I can work to ensure that the next NODA intern will have a better experience due to my suggestions.

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Journal entry #4- Santa Clara University tour

Posted on July 26, 2008. Filed under: NODA Journal |

Santa Clara Mission

Santa Clara Mission

Today I took the 7 mile drive down the road to Santa Clara University, a small, private Jesuit college minutes away from San Jose State. I went on an admissions tour, asked some questions and briefly met the NODA interns stationed there. Visiting left me with more questions and things to ponder than I ever thought possible. My student affairs education has completely changed the way I view universities and I am glad to see my education at work. On the other hand, if I ever am in a position to send a child to college, my partner will be in charge of going on tours. I will ask too many innate questions and my child will undoubtedly feel “uncool”.

Santa Clara looks and feels like a Jesuit institution from the moment you drive onto campus. The visitor parking is right in front of the Mission Church and it is the first building that we walked through on the tour. Of course, this is after the student tour guide had informed everyone that only 50% of the student body are Catholic and that the core curriculum includes 3 religious studies courses. Religion is not overtly mentioned much after the tour of the Mission, however there are signs of its influence throughout the program. The only student organization on the first floor of the student union is the campus ministry. Our tour guide explains her path towards finding her calling, not her job or career. In other words, its there, its not being touted as a huge selling point, but its impact on how the university looks, feels, and operates is quite clear.

There were several things I heard on the tour that made my ears perk up. The funny thing is that 7 years ago when I was giving tours at CU-Boulder I was probably guity of similar verbal slips. I could never have picked up on the things I heard and analyzed now. With this being said, I have no doubt that our tour guide had no idea what messages she was sending when she called students “kids” or joked about incoming female students putting their names on a list to get married in the Mission and then trying to find a husband. Of course, to me the first statement shows a lack of respect for incoming students and the second comment is sexist and not inclusive. Not to mention the fact that every time financial matters were mentioned she directed the answers at parents which basically implied that students at Santa Clara do not need to take responsibility for their financial matters. Perhaps this is true for a large majority of the student body, but for those students who must pay for school on their own these statements must leave them feeling a bit “out of the loop”.

I was happy to learn that there are different admissions requirements for the three different colleges on campus (engineering, arts and science, and business) and that faculty advisors have lighter course loads in order to ensure that they have plenty of time to meet with students. Santa Clara has a number of Residence Hall Learning Communities where each student takes two classes with the rest of their hallmates, which is an excellent way to build both intellectual and social communities among new students. I was also very impressed with the Arts and Science building which had pictures of many world leaders/innovators including Mikhail Gorbachev, Cesar Chavez, Mother Teresa, and Steven Spielberg to name a few. What really impressed me about these pictures was that below each one was a quote by the person and then a small biography about the work that they had done. To me this was an moving way to show how people from different backgrounds, fields, nationalities, and religions could all make a valuable contribution to the world.  

All and all I found a lot of the tour info to be similar to the stuff I have heard and said countless times before. Club sports, the recreation center, class size, colleges or departments, safety, library services, and where students can eat and live are all standard tour topics and they seem to satisfy the majority of people’s interest in a prospective college. Like I said before, I’m glad I now have a new outlook on tours, but man does it make my head spin after visiting!

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Journal entry #3- The trouble with being an intern

Posted on July 7, 2008. Filed under: NODA Journal |

So far the greatest hurdle I have faced during my internship has been gaining enough confidence from my supervisors to let me take on bigger tasks. We are currently mid-way through our orientation season and while I am quite certain that I have the knowledge and skills necessary to take on bigger tasks, I’m not sure I will ever get a chance to do so. In large part this has to do with the fact that the bigger tasks I am interested in taking on are tasks that professional advisors are currently responsible for completing. In this situation, I am seen as a bit of a liability. I am fairly certain that my direct supervisor has confidence in my ability, but other advisors and people above her are not ready to answer to concerned students, parents, and administrators who question why a graduate student is doing an advisor’s job. This leaves me trying to get as much professional experience and development as possible, while realizing that there are certain things I may never be able to do while I am here. It is frustrating and definitely something that I should probably discuss at greater length with my supervisor, but for now I’ll just leave it as an unsolved cases file.

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Journal Entry #2- Sometimes you have to cry

Posted on June 26, 2008. Filed under: NODA Journal |

So today I did something completely unusual for me, I cried; not only that I cried in front of my supervisor. I cried because I was frustrated with the lack of new, professional development opportunities I am getting during the non-session days of orientation. Basically I had been stuffing folders for three days in a row and the end still seems no where in sight. The advising staff (which in most cases includes me and three other student staff members) are in charge of stuffing half of all student folders used this summer. Yes there are 20 some orientation advisers but because they receive a stipend instead of a hourly salary, they don’t have to come in on off days. And the office staff in the orientation office is also not required to have specific hours on off days so it is hard to rely on them. It’s good to know these policies and how they affect all parties (I will certainly contemplate them more at a later date) but when you are the party doing the lion’s share of the work, it’s hard to want to put up with it, let alone see it from a theoretical standpoint. So I cried.

What did it get me? Well not a lot, we still have to do the folders, but there may be some more opportunties coming my way. The big hurdle is the fact that while I’m confident that I could take on more advising roles than I currently have, there are surely those who aren’t quite sure I can do it or should do it. I will be getting the chance on Friday to be the staff supervisor in an advising lab, which will be a first time thing for me and there still a chance that because of increased enrollment numbers that I may be able to lead my own advising session. I really hope this becomes a reality. All I can do is keep working hard and hope that I gain more and more trust and in doing so gain greater roles within the department.

I’ll be honest coming into a new system is hard and wanting/needing to gain increased responsibility quickly is even harder. I’m not sure crying was the right way to go, in fact I’m still a bit embarrassed by my tears, but tomorrow is another day and that’s all that matters.

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Journel entry #1- Let the challenges begin

Posted on June 21, 2008. Filed under: NODA Journal |

I’ve been in San Jose for a little over two weeks now. I’m finally getting used to the endless sunny days that have escaped me during my time in Oregon. I am also adjusting to living on campus again. I’m proud to say that I haven’t locked myself out of my room yet, forgetting my key in the middle of the night is still a source of paranoia for me and I finally invested in a robe, which makes the communal shower thing a little more bare able. Adjusting to my new responsibilities as a San Jose State University (SJSU) staff member has been a slower process and one that I’m sure will last throughout the entire summer.

One of the greatest challenges for me has been realizing that I really didn’t do a good job of researching SJSU before I got here. Granted I had approximately 48 hours to decide on whether or not to take the job after it was offered to me, but coming in I didn’t know it was a largely communter campus; I didn’t know that it was located right on the edge of downtown San Jose; I didn’t know that they are in the process of acquiring a new president; and I didn’t know what the campus culture was in regards to student affairs work. Given that I am only here for three months, I am fairly certain that none of these things would have prevented me from taking this position, however, when I search for jobs next year I will be far more thorough in my research. Things I will be playing special attention to include location, whether or not the campus has a strong residential population, how long upper management have been in their positions/what’s the turnover rate like, and what types (if any) of working relationships are there between academic and student affairs departments on campus.

Another challenge has been transitioning into my role as a professional staff member. One of my responsibilities is to help supervise and advise orientation advisers. All of these students have attended SJSU, they all took a semester long class in the spring to introduce them to the program and their roles within it and many are in their second year working for orientation. In other words, they know a heck of a lot more than I do about what it’s like to be a SJSU student and most know more than I do about the program I’m supposed to be helping to run. In some respects, this scenario is quite daunting and I won’t say that I’m not a bit intimidated by it, but I’m here and I might as well grow from the experience.

First off, it is important that I recognize that while these students have a better handle on SJSU and this orientation program, I have a whole year of graduate school under my belt and that’s worth something. I have a thorough understanding of why orientations exist in the first place-to ease the transition from high school to college, to welcome incoming students into a brand new community and impart on them the rules and expectations of them as new students, to increase retention rates and to get students plugged in to the various support systems available to them on campus. I understand trends within orientation programs and the reasons that they exist. Most importantly I know about a variety of different challenges that first year students face and how orientation can help them find support to overcomes these difficulties. For me the key becomes putting my knowledge to the test and helping to impart this knowledge of the student staff in a way that makes them even better at the work they do.


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


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