As most of us have probably gathered by now, the SDA program focuses a lot on inclusion. Whether this means fostering inclusion among the folks that comprise our SDA family, the diverse students we serve, or some other aspect of inclusion, we recognize as a community that this is an important value for us.
For this reason, I have been surprised and disillusioned by the frequent lack of inclusion of a certain population of SDA students, which I belong to: those who work off-campus. It is my perception, and I think it’s a fact, that most students in the program work on-campus, whether as a graduate assistant, full-time employee, or non-GA part-time employee. Seattle U seems like a great place to work, and a great avenue for cultivating and practicing the ethics and skills we are learning in the program; therefore, kudos to you! Nevertheless, students who work off-campus–some in non-student affairs positions–constitute a substantial group in the program, and yet we often go unacknowledged.
To show that I am not just creating an excuse to complain, let me offer some examples. Much of the SDA/SUSDA programming that occurs, including Preview Days, centers on graduate assistantships, both in language and in content. Those who did not interview for or did not obtain a GAship have expressed feelings of exclusion and inadequacy because of this (myself included), and have had to constantly remind others that off-campus work is a viable option for putting our student development theory into practice. Additionally, SUSDA meetings take place at 4:15pm and are usually finished by the time folks like me make it to campus from our jobs. What message does this send to those who work off-campus? Is it one of inclusion? Does it promote our involvement in SUSDA? I’m sure I’m not the only one who has found myself thinking, “Welp, there’s another meeting/webinar/program I can’t attend…maybe I should just stop reading these emails.”
I write this post not to chastise or begrudge any of my fellow SDA community members who hold on-campus positions; rather, I write this post to raise awareness. Let us remember that there are many pathways which led each of us to this program, there are many pathways we pursue while here, and still many other pathways we take upon completing it. So, the next time you are about to use “GAship” to reference all SDA student employment, think carefully about your words and the inclusion they do or do not afford. If you work off-campus and have felt excluded because of it, I encourage you to advocate for yourself and demand opportunities to contribute. If you are in a leadership position and have influence on programming, please remember to accommodate off-campus folks.
After all, SUSDA’s motto is: Development in action. Let’s do that! Thanks for reading. :)