What Defines My Year…

I have successfully finished my first year of graduate school! I am halfway to my Masters of Education in Student Development Administration!! Writing that feels weird, so just imagine how I feel when I say it. I have accomplished something I couldn’t have ever imagined, but no accomplishment comes without a long road and a few bumps.

I set out the school year with a plan to blog throughout and to reflect on things as they came, but as this year continued to hit me with bump after bump that became too hard. This has easily been one of the hardest years of my life; maybe even the hardest year of my life.  I set out on this journey in Seattle on August 10, 2013 and thought I was ready for whatever I would experience. Oh how wrong I was. From being called the N-word to feeling completely alone in Seattle to being sexually assaulted to my grandma passing away to my friend trying to commit suicide, this year has hit me with an amount of pain that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. Let’s be clear, I am not sharing my experiences with you so you can sympathize or even empathize with me but as a means to continue in my healing. To say these things to someone is one thing, but to write them on the internet makes these experiences even more real as they are now permanent.

Domonique Crosby

When I see it all in a list like that it’s hard to believe I am still standing. The truth is there were so many amazing experiences and people who helped me over each one of these hurdles. These bumps do not define me or the time I’ve had here so far. It’s the HRL staff that took me in as family and ensured I would get through it all that has defined my year. It’s the staff meetings every week where my RAs kept me constantly laughing and proud to work with them that define my year. It’s the insatiable amount of love and support I received from my current RD, Christina, that defines my year. It’s the cohort of 24 amazing individuals who challenged and supported me that defined this year. It’s the visit from two of my best friends that define my year. It’s the 300 student leaders that benefited from a 3 day off campus training that I poured my heart into that defines my year. It’s the straight A’s I’ve earned each quarter that define my year. It’s the fact that I, an African American girl who was told in the 9th grade that Black kids don’t go to college, am here pursuing a Master’s degree that defines my year. It’s the fact that my mom, who worked 2 jobs to support us while I was growing up, gets to tell me each week that she’s proud of the woman I’m becoming. It’s these great experiences that define the amazing 1st year I have had.

Now don’t get me wrong, I am still healing from the pain but I WILL NOT let it define me or the experience I’ve had here. This year has been a roller coaster ride, but it has changed me in the most positive way. My first year of graduate school was good, bad, ugly, and beautiful but worth it. I get to look back at this year and say “Damn, that was the hardest time ever but I made it.” This is what defines this year for me. This was the year of resilience, thanks to a dear friend for teaching me this, as I continued to plow through all the hard times. I have come out of this year a better professional and a stronger person. Thank you to those who helped me through it all. Time to get ready for my next adventure which hopefully will teach me just as much as this year.

“You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.” – Dr. Maya Angelou

- Domonique Crosby

Read more from Domonique’s own blog at: http://amireallyagrownupnow.blogspot.com/

Being an Outsider to a Class

Over the last ten weeks, I have had the opportunity to take a class outside the typical Student Development Administration (SDA) curriculum. I was taken outside my comfort zone, walking anxiously into a classroom not knowing anyone– I guess this is how it must feel for non-SDA students walking into a class full of us, I thought to myself.

The class is titled Education Policies and Leadership in Political Context, and it’s a required class for students in the Master’s in Education Policy program at the University of Washington, or as they like to call it, “the MEP program”. Yes, I had to use Google to find out what MEP was short for.

While I thoroughly enjoyed learning all about political processes in education and how policy windows open when certain situations align, among other theories, I also learned to understand what it means to be the odd one out in a class. That first day, more than half of the students introduced themselves as being in “the MEP program”, afterwards going on to say who their political hero is. What sort of cult is this? Political heroes!?

I ended up declaring Suey Park and Paulo Freire my political heroes before Googling “the MEP program at UW”.

This experience has definitely helped me realize that there are times I get carried away with using unique SDA/student affairs language, throwing out terms and acronyms like GA, GAships, SEVIS, FERPA, TPC, SES, CRT, NUFP, NASPA, etc. without realizing who the audience really is. I’ve also been guilty of using student affairs concepts during in-class group discussions with non-SDA students, and getting frustrated when they just “don’t get it”.

It’s about time I learn to be more aware of my audience and take opportunities like these to be an educator. I’d like to encourage my fellow SDAers to do the same whenever there are interactions with people outside the field and even with the next batch of incoming SDA students because I remember how intimidating it was. The next time you’re introducing yourself in class, be proud to declare that you’re a student in the “Student Development Administration program or SDA for short”.




8th Edition of MAGIS

The 8th edition of MAGIS: A Student Development Journal has been updated, and the final version is now available to view. You can find the journal HERE.


MAGIS is the peer-reviewed academic journal for the Student Development Administration (SDA) program at Seattle University. Published annually and entirely student-run, the journal showcases scholarly and reflective writing by SDA students, alumni, faculty, and student affairs professionals. Following the Jesuit tradition of academic inquiry, MAGIS is committed to creating the premier forum within Jesuit higher education for dialogue on the theory and practice of student affairs.


The vision of MAGIS is to represent the Seattle University College of Education and Student Development Administration Program as a scholarly and reflective resource for student affairs graduate students and professionals in Jesuit higher education.

Yes, I am a MAN in HEELS

Yes, I am a Man. Yes, I am in Heels. Yes, I am a MAN in HEELS.

This past November I decided to start wearing heels. I simply replaced my black men’s dress shoes with a pair of ankle boots that have a 2” heel on them, and I’m just now just starting to understand why I decided to put them on in the first place. It was an unusual thing for a man to do, but now I have several pairs of heels. I think they have become a part of who I am. I am confident when wearing them. I stand tall both literally and as a self-assured professional. I want to share this experience with others, both the struggles of showing up differently than the norm and the beauty of liberating myself from a constricted idea of masculinity. A part of my personal and professional journey has become to challenge gender norms and endeavor to dismantle the gender binary. I choose to do this by simply being me. I hope that my actions will inspire other people to engage with this positive change as well, most specifically other males like me.

I am a Man in Heels

I am a man. I also wear heels. I am a man who wears heels, and somebody who has become pretty aware of what it means to be male and wear heels. Let’s talk about being a man first, and then I will come back to wearing heels. I understand that being male means I identify with the gender I was assigned at birth (which means I am cis-gender). This means the doctor was right when they looked at my genitalia and labeled me as a boy. My hormones, appearance, biology, and identity all align with what it means to be a male. What I know to be true is that my male identity does not come from what I wear, how I act, or how I feel on any given day. This is my gender expression, which often changes, but is always an expression of my male identity. The Genderbread person info graphic has helped me understand the complexity of gender and come to this place of understanding. I want to explain what I believe to be a problem with having such a rigid idea of what masculinity is and how that perception reinforces the systematic power that all cis-gender males possess.

Sometime ago you would have heard me say, “Women have more options for what they get to wear.” I have come to realize that actually I have more options. I can wake up and put on my suit, tie, a pair of men’s shoes (my masculine uniform), and fit in throughout the entire day. I can do that without even giving it a second thought. That is my privilege, to show up and automatically be accepted as the norm. I do not have to think about how my presence needs to mirror others in the room so that I will fit in and be taken seriously. Why I think men have more options is because we can choose to wear “feminine” attire with little to no push back from colleagues. It is likewise our decision to continue wearing the same three piece suit on all business occasions. I keep italicizing the word choose because it is a choice that I make as a male (probably as a white, heterosexual male). I’m am not required to dress in a certain way in order to fit in, which is exactly why I hope to inspire other men to shed the shackles of traditional masculinity along with me. I want to come together to extend systematic power to all genders. I think this begins with men, like myself, using power to challenge the norms that are benefiting us and serving as a detriment to all other genders. I want to end a system of oppression where my partner is told not to wear sparkly business attire by a female colleague because they won’t fit in or be taken seriously. This hurts, and is why I want to engage men in this conversation. People should not have to assimilate to norms for which I can so easily wake up and utilize every day without even noticing.

What People are Saying

Often I walk around campus or Seattle and receive such affirming comments: “Nice shoes… I love your shoes… Where did you get your shoes?” The compliments really rain down upon me as if I have uncovered some secret way of receiving affirmations. I really get quite a few complements which is really not what most people assume is a common response to a man in heels. I tend to have conversations with people who care for me; they worry that people are making assumption about me that are incorrect. This hasn’t really happened. Instead I get other fascinating comments (mostly from other men), and all while having very perplexed expressions on their faces. “Those are different… How do you walk in those? I could never do it.” These comments make sense to me. If I had seen the same thing a year ago, I would have been just as confused. This confusion is what I want to invoke in people. I want to be a part of an uncomfortable conversation about what it means to be masculine, and yes, I do think I am just as much of a real man as any other man. Unfortunately though, the most common response is silence. There is not verbal remark but I know they are engaging in an internal conversation as I clearly see them stare at my feet as I walk by. This is what I want my impact to be. I expect confusion and their questions do not bother me. I like to think that most people are just surprised and if they process what I’m doing for a bit, I think that brief observation can lead to positive change.

Navigating NASPA & TPE

I decided to wear heels during the NASPA National Conference and TPE, where I participated in just under twenty interviews. This conference have over 2,000 Student Affairs professionals in attendance. I feel like I introduced myself to them, and the field, in a way that is most authentic to me. While I was there I actually received an overwhelming amount of support. Most people who commented on my shoes explained how happy they were that I was wearing them and others just complimented me as I passed by. One person even affirmed me during the interview days by saying, “There is more than one way to do this (referring to wearing my heels, pink shirt, and corresponding tie).” Most people I spoke to before leaving for the conference did not think I would receive so much support for wearing heels, and honestly, were afraid I wouldn’t find as much success in my job search process.

Unfortunately affirmations were not the only comments I recieved while I was interviewing. Although they were the only comments I was directly receiving from people, I have to wonder what everybody else was saying after I left their interview tables or breakout sessions. Were they seeing a male in heels and rethinking what they understand as gender expectations or thinking about how they weren’t going to offer me a second interview? I found out just recently that at least one university that I interviewed with was indeed having trouble understanding why I was wearing heels. A past mentor of mine was chatting with some professionals that I had interviewed with. Those professionals were confused about why I, as a male, was wearing a pair of heels.  It sounds like there was even a larger conversation going on among many of the universities I interviewed with at TPE. One of the professionals questioned my heels, “What the hell? What’s up with that?,” and my mentor told them they didn’t know but had a couple of guesses. They said Justin is either trying to challenge gender norms or possibly just figuring out what his gender identity is. I really appreciate my mentor for addressing the situation and I mostly agree with those two statements. That mentor was told that I just didn’t fit in overall at their institution. My first thought was of course I don’t fit in. That is the point: to break the mold. My second thought was what that particular institution boasts about their high diversity. I wonder if I indeed do not fit in or if they do not. This just illustrates how some people don’t fit in and that is why the gender binary does not work.

That same mentor later checked in with my partner, who they knew as well. They wanted to make sure I was okay and that our (marriage) relationship was doing well. This third point is the one that worries me. I truly appreciate my mentor for supporting me, especially when I was not in the room to explain why I wear heels myself. However, this last question about my relationship is what I think one of the larger issues are that I am trying to address. When I put on a pair of heels I do not become any less of a man. As I wrote above, I think I am a more confident man with a strong sense of positive masculinity. In this comment I hear fear that my gender expression may mean that I am straying from my heterosexual orientation and my female partner should worry. Needless to say, this question caught my partner by surprise, since she has been my largest support throughout this entire process. She knows that this idea is one of the largest ones I am looking to dismantle. Displaying feminine traits does not make me less of a man. Actually engaging with what is traditionally not masculine has been what has made our relationship the healthiest. I would argue that I am able to express a deeper level of love now, than I ever could while I was confined to the rugged individualism of traditional masculinity. I think this is why homophobia is so pervasive. I grew up being told not to do so many things or people who think I was gay. That kind of conversation needs to stop, because it is not good for anyone.

My partner has been a phenomenal support from the beginning and enjoys helping me explore new ways of challenging gender norms. We now get to go shopping together. It is fun to walk into stores with Susie and look at clothing at the same time. The only downside is that we are one shoe size off from one another. Usually when we go to a store, we will begin to look at clothes or shoes and almost without fail, a sales associate will let me know where the men’s clothes are. At first this tended to dishearten me, especially when I went shopping alone. However, now I tend to thank them for letting me know and I continue shopping alongside my partner. Recently I picked up some clothes and went to try them on. When I got to the dressing room I was met with an apology because I needed to go downstairs to the men’s dressing room. I understand this. Clearly the world is not ready for this transition and it was no big deal to go down stairs. I just wasn’t even thinking about gender until I was asked to use a different room. It was pleasant to not have that weight on my shoulders. I choose to shop everywhere in the store and these kinds of inconveniences don’t really phase me anymore. That being said, I have been thinking a lot about how people feel when they don’t have the ability to make the choice I do. What do people do when they do not fall into the gender binary or when neither dressing room works for them?  I’m guessing these subtle inconveniences have a much larger impact them.

Why I Wear Heels

It is actually a relief to realize I was known as “the man in heels” at NASPA. I love this and I would put on heels if for no other reason than that. It is motivating to know that people are having conversations about my heels, hopefully even about gender norms and the binary we live in. My one additional hope is that one day it alters to “a” man in heels and other men follow along. Maybe it will then become a person in heels so everybody is welcome to wear whatever best expresses their gender identity. Until then I will continue to put heels on and imagine what it will look like. I don’t wear them just to help reduce barriers faced by marginalized communities. I also do wear them to help other men liberate themselves from the box we that confines us, and most importantly I do this for me. I am a man who will wear heels some days and a pair of men’s dress shoes the next. I do this while always being just as much of a man as I was the day before. I want to get to a point where others see that in me. My gender expression, clothes or behaviors are not what makes me a man.

I wear heals and challenge the gender norms because it helps me feel the power that I have become so accustomed to. The privilege I often I don’t even realize I have. When I didn’t put on a tie for my most recent presentation I did feel less powerful. I felt as if I wasn’t wearing what I was supposed to. I felt like I wouldn’t be taken seriously and may even be dismissed. These are the moments that help me realize what a privilege it is to be a cis-gender male. I want to explain how this has helped me realize how the gender binary is perpetuated. When I hear the words professional, executive, CEO, etc., I automatically think of a man in a suit and tie. Those are the identities, among others, that I see. For example, as if somebody said a professional walked into a dark room and I couldn’t actually seem them, I would picture a man in a suit. This is why I believe it is the norm and that systematic power resides in the three piece suit, specifically the tie (but that is a topic for another time). Until other men and I acknowledge this unearned advantage, people of other genders will not have access to this privileged space. This is what happens when I wear heels. I’m not giving up the power I have as a cis-gender male; I’m just staying aware of it.

On the contrary, I do feel a little bit of that discomfort when wearing heels as well. It is hard to continue to put on heels and wonder if I am going to be dismissed or not taken seriously when I attend professional events. This speaks to the privilege of being able to wear the same thing every day, always fitting the mold of what is professional, and never having to feel uncomfortable. I wonder if this question is in the mind of people of other genders when they are preparing for the day. It has become especially salient in light of my job search. I’m trying to find financial stability as I finish up graduate school and it is a conflict of interest to challenge the systems that are going to give me that opportunity.  I even debated wearing heels to my 2nd on-campus interview after I didn’t get an offer from the first one, worried that I will create just too much discomfort for employers to see all of the other promise inside of me.

Do I hate knowing that on some level, wearing heels to interviews may set me back just a little in a candidate pool? Yes I do. I mean I want a job. I don’t want to make claim that wearing heels is why I am not getting jobs. I don’t feel that way at all. I did apply to over forty jobs though and got only a couple of 2nd round interviews in return. I do trust a process that is based on comparing applicants based on fit. I am brand new to this whole Student Affairs thing and am fully aware that there are other reasons why I may not be the best fit for an institution. I don’t feel entitled to a position at all. I just have to wonder how many offers I would have if I showed up as people expect a man to show up. The good news is that I have been interviewing with one university while wearing heels and they are checking my references now. It may only be one out of forty, but I will truly fit in at their school. Regardless, one that that has been in my mind throughout this entire process is the following: I hope that pushing the norm will provoke others to expand their understanding of what is accepted as the norm and not instead just label me as somebody who will be a pain in the butt for a new department. That is not me. I just want to help myself and all others break from the boxes that society has placed us in.

Concluding Thoughts and Motivation

I want just two things. I want everybody, including myself, to have the same access to safety and security regardless of how they express their gender and I want to continually wears heels on the days when it expresses who I am. This is the beauty of my mutually beneficial relationship with challenging gender norms and living authentically. I also see my one action influence so much positive change in communities around me. I see very inspirational conversations happening. For instance, the professionals talking about me at TPE were not talking about me. Sure they were talking about “the man in heels,” but I think they were actually talking about themselves. The conversation was about masculinity and their understanding of it. It was not about Justin Zagorski who wears heels. It was instead the constructive conversation I want other men to have about what it means for them to be men.

I also have very life-giving conversations with students about gender as if my authenticity somehow makes them feel more comfortable. I have even been around when other men put on heels and we wear them together. All of these changes are what motivate me to continue to imagine a future where gender expression is fluid and gendered attire does not serve as a way to reinforce systemic oppression. It still blows my mind that all I need to do in order to surround myself with this much positivity, is to put on a pair of heels. Even though I have spoken about struggles, wearing heels and engaging with what masculinity means for me has been very rewarding. I hope other cis-gender men (especially white, heterosexual men) find their ways to challenge the systems that oppress people of all other genders while also confining themselves. I have personally found that it takes so little effort from me, but can in turn have a huge impact.

- Justin Zagorski

Member of the Week – TAMMY JEZ

Tammy Jez

Name: Tammy Jez

Current job & location: Graduate Program Coordinator, Seattle University, College of Nursing

Why are you passionate about student affairs: I believe that anyone who desires access to education, should be given the opportunity.  As a first-generation college student, I can relate to some of the obstacles and challenges that students may face.  My passion and desire is to help students believe they can achieve their goals by providing the tools, opportunities and encouragement to aid them in their journey.

What are some of your favorite things to do or places to visit in Seattle: Perhaps it’s because I still consider myself “new” to the area, but I love to spend an afternoon in Pike  Place Market. On sunny days, I enjoy exploring Alki Beach and the wineries in Woodinville.

Outside of class and work, how do you like to spend your time: I am an avid hiker (just completed 41 weeks in a row) and runner.  Friends, family and my dog, Hula, fill up the rest of my busy schedule.

Fun fact: I hate mayonnaise. And don’t try to trick me with aioli- I know it’s just fancy mayonnaise.

Member of the Week – BRUCE MANN

Bruce Mann

Name: Bruce Mann

Current job & location: Graduate Assistant for Multicultural Leadership and Assessment, University of Puget Sound

Why are you passionate about student affairs: In a time of intense intellectual inquiry, self discovery, and search for meaning, student affairs has the potential to positively challenge, empower, and inspire students to further discover who they are and what mark they want to leave on the world. The power of student affairs is found in seeing the full humanity of students, listening to their stories, hopes and fears, and advocating for holistic student success.

What are some of your favorite things to do or places to visit in Seattle/Tacoma: First off, everyone in Seattle needs to discover the amazingness that is Tacoma and surrounding areas. There are so many amazing places to walk around and explore including Chambers Bay, Point Defiance Park, the Thea Foss Waterway, and the Ruston waterfront. In Seattle, I love spending time at Alki Beach, Discovery Park, and really anywhere that has a great view of the Sound.

Outside of class and work, how do you like to spend your time: When I think of the perfect afternoon it involves sunshine, a hammock, and a stack of books. Additionally I enjoy cycling, yoga, hiking, and pretty much anything that can get me outside and around friends.

Fun fact: I used to work as a freelance photojournalist, spending most of that time covering college sports.

A TPE First-Timer…

Veratta Pegram-Floyd

My name is Veratta Pegram-Floyd and I am an SDA alumna from the class of 2013, as well as a double alumna from SU, with an undergraduate degree in Social Work/Sociology. Up until December 2013, I was working professionally in the field within the non-profit sector working in college completion mainly with first generation and low-income students. Even though I was passionate about the work that I was doing (in part because of my own experience as a first gen, low-income student), I was missing opportunities to holistically engage on a college/university campus. I resigned and began a job search, specifically focused within college/university settings.

Fast forward to early February where I was focused on a local search. I interviewed for two positions in Seattle and did not move along in either of their processes. It was frustrating at the time, however I later realized that neither of those positions were going to help me move along a direct path towards what I currently perceive my career end goal to be. Through a mentoring conversation, I decided to be open to different positions and explore a national search. Thus began my TPE journey and the lessons I learned from the experience…

Things to Consider:

-All of the TPE volunteers are very knowledgeable about the process and are there to assist you in any way that they can. UTILIZE THEM.

-Even when you may not think you are on, you are on. Remember to be professional at all times. This is especially important if you are offered the opportunity to attend socials or any other school related events.

-Different people approach TPE differently: The most important thing to note is that this is a very stressful experience for everyone, regardless of how many interviews candidates have lined up in advance and/or how much interview preparation has been done prior to coming to TPE. I didn’t know what to expect, but it is natural for me to approach others (and my work) with a very affirming and welcoming personality. When I saw that others were distressed in the candidate room at my table, I asked them about it/tried to problem solve with them. I didn’t come in looking at TPE as a “competition”, because I believe that the only person you are in completion with is yourself. Bring your personality to TPE and let that help you shape your experience.

-You might not have all of your interviews lined up before you attend: I know I didn’t, but I quickly learned that once you get to TPE, both you and employers you are interested in/interested in you are able to request interviews. Additionally, if you submitted application materials to a school prior to TPE, you can follow up again with them there. I had four interviews set up prior to coming to TPE, and two that I set up while I was there which came by way of networking in the Starbucks line! In my case, I didn’t have specific schools or criteria of certain schools narrowed down enough which helped me to be open with regard to meeting with other schools that I may not have initially considered. I had the flexibility to be open, but even with that flexibility, there needs to be some parameters…

-Be “selectively” open (if you have the interviewing flexibility): When you may be requesting interviews/schools are requesting to interview you, it is important to know some kind of criteria and/or follow your gut. One of the schools that requested to interview me was not a good fit demographically speaking. The other was not a good fit religiously speaking. While it was a learning moment for me which taught me to better trust myself, I should not have went on those two interviews. It is easy to get caught up in the excitement of schools being interested in you, but you have to remember that as much as they are interviewing you, YOU ARE INTERVIEWING THEM.

-If you have the time (even if you don’t think you need the wisdom) get in on the roundtables and career coaching sessions offered: I heard that both of these may have been new additions this year. The roundtables were about an hour long and covered such topics as “how to prepare for the second round interview” and “how to ace the on campus interview” etc. The career coaching sessions are also an hour long. During the session, you get to sit with a seasoned professional who will offer guidance regarding where you are in your process. I was given so much LIFE by Dr. Kevin Dougherty, Assistant Dean of Students at UCLA. I asked him specifically about my non-traditional background and feeling confident about what I offer, knowing that my professional experience has not been in the field. He shared his also non-traditional background with me and helped to build up my confidence.

-Some schools will not have second round interviews at TPE: Always ask what their process looks like at the end of the interview and know that some schools do not offer second round interviews at TPE. This is not a reflection of you and/or how you interviewed, but rather a reflection of the school and their process.

-After TPE, remember to formally apply for positions if you did not do that prior to attending TPE (assuming there is a formal process)/follow up with the school. As we all know, some schools are more organized/have a more defined hiring process than others. If they don’t get back to you by the timeline set, follow up.

-(Most Important Piece of Information) Do NOT judge your experience based off the experience of your peers: Easier said than done, I’ll admit that I initially fell victim to this. As I moved along in the process, I got over this. Yes, I was bummed that I didn’t have more interviews. When I thought about it though, what was I really going to do with 18-20 interviews? No, I haven’t been offered a job yet, but I’m a firm believer that things happen as they are supposed to. Even though things are a little stressful while I am in this limbo period, I believe I will have the opportunity that was next meant for me.

Did I have a good TPE experience? I did, because I made the experience what I wanted it to be.

Since TPE, I have had an additional interview with a school that was interested in me, but did not have the scheduling availability to meet with me at TPE (that can happen as well). I have also been moving towards being a finalist for a position/school that I could really see myself having a lot of growth and influence. For this position, I completed a second round interview at TPE. I found out this past Wednesday, April 9th that they are checking references. After references are checked, they will make a decision regarding whether or not I will receive an on-campus interview. They are only bringing three candidates to campus. Given the way my first two interviews have gone, I STRONGLY BELIEVE that I will be offered an on-campus interview. If I get an on-campus interview, it will happen at the end of April/early May. I will keep you all posted…

Blessings to all of you in your search and congrats to those that have been offered positions and found their fit!

- Veratta

SUSDA Member of the Week : THAD TEO

Thad Teo

Name: Thaddeus “Thad” Teo

Current job & location: Advancement Assistant for the Social Sciences Division, College of Arts & Sciences, University of Washington

Why are you passionate about student affairs: To briefly sum it all up in a few sentences– During my time as an undergrad, I met quite a few students who simply believed that they were here only to get a degree and get out. I believe that there’s a lot of work student affairs professionals can do to support students in getting a more all-rounded college experience, and I’m passionate about facilitating opportunities for out-of-classroom experiences because education should not be limited to just academics.

What are some of your favorite things to do or places to visit in Seattle: I love being able to take short drives out of the city to go hiking, but since this question is asking about places IN Seattle, I’d say hanging out at parks: Greenlake, Golden Gardens, Gasworks, Seward, and Safeco Field (it’s a ballpark so it counts).

Outside of class and work, how do you like to spend your time: If I’m not out in nature or watching sports, I enjoy cooking and homebrewing.

Fun fact: I have a 100% success rate in matchmaking (n=1). Back story: During one of the international student orientations that I facilitated while I was an undergrad at UW, I introduced an exchange student from Auckland, New Zealand to another exchange student from Coventry, England. They were both only here in Seattle for 3 months, but 3 years later they’re still together and living happily together in Sydney, Australia. Moral of the story? College isn’t just about getting a degree, it’s to find your ________ (fill it in yourself).

SUSDA Member of the Week: ALEXA FORSTER

Alexa Forster

Name: Alexa Forster

Current job & location: Program Assistant for Residential Life, University of Washington

Why are you passionate about student affairs: There is so much more to a college experience than what students are exposed to in the classroom. I love being a part of a student’s growth as they begin and work their way through college in finding their identity and their passions as they relate to their careers and personal lives. I think student affairs professionals have the capability to positively impact students in so many ways and I love to be a part of this process for so many individuals.

What are some of your favorite things to do or places to visit in Seattle: I love to go shopping down near Westlake Center and visit Pike Place when it is nice and sunny out. My favorite place to eat would be the Old Spaghetti Factory near the waterfront. I’ve been going there since I was a kid. I also am very fond of Gasworks Park. It is a perfect place to walk to from the U District and has gorgeous views of the city!

Outside of class and work, how do you like to spend your time: I love to craft (jewelry making, and other fun projects I find on Pinterest), go out to happy hour, shopping, and movies with friends, and visit my cabin in the San Juans whenever I get the chance!

Fun fact: My hidden talent is playing the iPhone game Flappy Birds. My high score is 250.

Navigating an Assistantship AND a Part-Time Job

One year ago, I was a first year student seeking out an internship at the SDA Internship and Networking Fair. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous and didn’t need a 20 minute pep talk from a continuing student before I even approached a single table. Yep, that was me- a nervous, anxious wreck. The first table I went up to was Highline Community College where they were promoting an advising internship. I knew going in to the fair that I was specifically seeking out an internship at a community college or in advising, so this one was exactly what I was looking for.  Kevin, the representative from Highline, was a previous high school counselor, like myself, and that grain of similarity sparked a great conversation between us.  I walked around the room that day and gathered a plethora of information and business cards, but I only reached out to Highline in the end. I interviewed with them not too long after the fair in March and they wanted me to start right away. Unfortunately I was unable to do that due to an internship I was committed to at Seattle U. At that point, I thought that might be the end of that conversation.

A couple of months later, the Director of Educational Planning called me and asked if I was still looking for an internship opportunity. I enthusiastically replied yes! During our conversation, she informed me that not only were they interested in hosting me as an intern but a part time position had opened up and she wanted me to apply. Nervous, excited, and completely unsure if I was qualified or not, I went for it. After a ½ day interview with various panels as well as giving a presentation, I was offered the position. I felt completely blessed that I was not only going to be receiving internship credit and hours, but was going to be paid too!

I started working at Highline in the Educational Planning and Advising office in the summer time as an Academic Advisor, working about 30 hours a week. Because I had no experience working at a community college, I had a lot to learn from the various transfer and professional-technical degree offerings and specific requirements. Highline is the most diverse college in the state of Washington and I was excited to work with a diverse population of students. After engaging in a series of trainings, shadowing, and informational interviews with various professionals across campus, I was ready to advise on my own. It was tough at first. Would I remember all of the information I just learned? What if I gave students the wrong information? How can I possibly remember all of the requirements for the Nursing program? I had a million doubts, but the supportive staff assured me that it would click eventually.  And sure enough, it did.

In addition to advising, I also was able to participate and eventually facilitate Highline’s new student orientation sessions. As you can imagine, orientation looks very different at a community college and Highline is one of the few community colleges that requires new students to attend orientation. Over the summer, we were conducting 2-3 orientation sessions per week and I had a major role in the facilitation and registration portions. One of my greatest accomplishments with Highline was presenting at the first ever Running Start Student Success Orientation on “Success in Online Classes”.  Running Start is a unique population of students that we don’t talk about in the SDA program. Running Start is a program for high school juniors and seniors which allows them to concurrently take college and high school classes that meet their high school graduation requirements (for free too!). Highline has a fantastic RS program with approximately 1000 students enrolled this year.

Since starting in the summer, I have advised Running Start students, displaced workers, veterans, international students, etc. The list goes on and on and the truth is, I never know who I am going to meet with in any given advising session. Every student is so different from the last in so many ways and I love that.

Once class started back up again in the fall, I decided to stay at Highline and give working two jobs a try. During Fall Quarter I was working at my GAship 3 days a week and at Highline 2 days a week, plus wrapping up 2 internships presentations and going to class twice a week. That was a major transition and I was exhausted after about two weeks in to the quarter. I did not anticipate how busy I would be and how much work it all was.  Reflecting back, one of the toughest things was moving through two very different roles at two very different institutions. I felt like I had to switch my brain on and off depending on what role I was in.  At Seattle U, I work in recreation and manage a group of 7 URec student leaders. This group of students plans internal events for students which include workshops, professional development opportunities, service-learning and we have a strong focus is on community building since there are 100+ students who work for URec. At Highline, my focus is advising new students on transfer and professional-technical programs and helping them register for the right courses. I rarely see the same student twice and our interactions last between 10-30 minutes.

Now, that I have been working full time between the two jobs for 5 month months, I have gotten used to juggling multiple roles. It has been a wonderful experience being able to engage in two very different areas of student affairs at two institutional types for this long during my last year in this grad program. From this experience, I have learned I have a strong passion for advising, working one on one with students, and building relationships with them.  Additionally, I can really see myself working at either institutional type after I graduate which will open up my options as I engage in the job search. I will be able to approach new opportunities with a wider range of higher education experience which –fingers crossed- makes me a competitive candidate.

**If anyone is interested in speaking to me more about my experience working at a community college, in advising, university recreation, working two jobs, or anything else for that matter, I am more than happy to share my experience with you. Just send me an email- pinneyc@seattleu.edu.

- Katie Pinney