Some SUSDA students may not realize that tuition at Seattle University does not cover the full cost to educate a student. The cost to run student services at Seattle University and your tuition dollars are augmented by gifts from generous alumni, parents, grandparents, trustees, and friends of the school. According to the Seattle University website 23% of the SU Fund (general unrestricted operating dollars) go to support student services on campus. Yes, that means that this fund most likely supports the offices where our beloved Graduate Assistants (GA)’s work and offices where we will be working as professionals when we graduate.
When brainstorming about something to post on the SUSDA BLOG, development (a.k.a. fundraising) came to mind as an important tool that is often overlooked in higher education and especially student affairs. As someone who works fulltime in development, I wasn’t aware until my first professional conference, NASPA Regional in Portland last fall, that development in student affairs is quite a niche in our profession. This also proved to be the case during our Best Practices class when we visited University of Washington (UW). UW now has a Development Office within Student Affairs. These professionals solely raise money for student services and activities on campus. Imagine if you had your own private fundraising office to meet the needs of your office or a student whenever you wanted?!
Another great example of fundraising in student affairs would be the University of Puget Sound. They don’t have a specific Student Affairs Development Office, but they have a great relationship with the Office of University Relations (fundraising) that helped the Office of Student Affairs set up a scholarship for deserving LGBTQ students. Simiarly, Pacific Lutheran University, was awarded a Lilly Grant, that enabled the University to build an award-winning Student Leadership Institute. As schools like these demonstrate the need for development in higher education, it is becoming increasingly more important that young professionals in Student Affairs understand the art of building relationships and appreciating those who provide resources for our students and student services on our campuses.
Building relationships and networking is a skill that I believe anyone can learn. My mother, who is an extremely good networker and basicially hires and fires people for a living (she wouldn’t want me to say that), tells her clients that getting any job is 90% about who you know. Taking into account that my mother rarely lies, I’ve proactively tried to take steps during my time in graduate school to network and take advantage of the opportunities afforded to me. For instance, Sarah Thomson and I drove down to Portland, OR at 9:00 p.m. (yes that is right, after Erica’s theory class) and attended the NASPA Regional conference for the weekend last fall. For Sarah and I this opportunity resulted in internship offers, newly established relationships with SDA alumni, friendships with other student affairs graduate students, and introductions to several Senior Student Affairs Officers (SSAOs) who work in the area.
As the SUSDA Professional Development Chair, one of my main goals for 2011-2012 is to provide graduate students with the same types of possibilities to make connections and build meaningful relationships that I received as a first year student. My hope is that SDA students will get to know other graduate students, learn who our alumni are, talk to potential employers and learn what they are looking for in a job. And the choice is ultimately up to YOU. Students who proactively take advantage of such opportunities by attending programs, stepping outside of their comfort zone to meet new people, and going to professional development opportunities like the NASPA regional and national conferences or the Puget Sound Colloquium will be positioned in a wonderful place to find a job after graduate school.
If you take advantage of the possibilities given to you, you may open a door that you didn’t know existed.