Finding my passion in an unexpected place

Catie Holker

Like many of you, I took a full load of classes my first quarter in the SDA program. At the time, I was also working full time. With my plate becoming more and more full and my sanity slowly slipping away, I naturally found myself doubting my abilities, doubting that I would be able to finish this degree, and doubting that student affairs was the route that I should have chosen.

By the end of that first quarter I was immensely worried. I had already committed myself to this, but what if it wasn’t the right place for me? I love my cohort, I love my classes, but did I really love the work and the focus? My biggest problem was narrowing what area of student affairs I wanted to concentrate on. That always seemed to be a question that came up amongst my peers; “What area do you want to work in? What’s your ultimate goal?”

On top of all of this, I had internships to figure out. How was I supposed to find somewhere I wanted to work, that had something I wanted to do, and would work with my schedule? It was a daunting task to think about, and to this day I’m grateful for the support of the SUSDA community and the Internship and Networking Fair that allowed me to find two amazing positions that I learned more from than I ever thought possible in 3 short months. And that’s what I want to talk about here: I found my passion in an unexpected, and maybe uncommon, place. I chose to take a risk and take on an internship at a nonprofit instead of a college or university and it ended up being just what I needed to find my passion in working with students.

At the Internship and Networking Fair I had the pleasure of meeting Rebecca and Aaron, two outstanding individuals who work at Summer Search. I was shocked to find a nonprofit institution at the fair, and found myself drawn to their organization. It was my first real exposure to the college access scene, and from the second I walked away from their table, I knew I was going to do my research and find out more.

Luck was on my side, that quarter. I met with Rebecca for an informal interview and before long I was filling out the paperwork to become an intern with Summer Search Seattle. I spent the summer mentoring high school seniors in their transition from high school to college, researching the achievements of Summer Search alumni, and creating a scholarship database for the organization. Maybe the tasks sound rudimentary, but what was most important to me about this position was the welcoming community of individuals I got to work with and the experience at an organizational structure that was new to me, one outside of higher education. My fondest memory is when one of the high school seniors finally opened up to me and even started calling me her “mentor.” Nothing since has made me feel more proud of the work that I do.

As someone who entered grad school just 3 months after obtaining my bachelor’s degree, I often believe that my perceptions of the student affairs field are limited due to my lack of experience in the working world. Thanks to the internship component of the SDA program, I was able to get real world experience and more clearly define where I wanted to go and what I wanted to do after graduate school. If any of you are considering an internship outside of higher education and you’d like some advice or would just like to chat about it, my door is always open! (And my email is too:

One last thing! Because I’m a huge nerd for quotes, I wanted to share with you all a few of my favorites that remind me of my internship experience. Enjoy!

“A ship is safe in harbor, but that’s not what ships are for.” – William G.T. Shedd

“Why not go out on a limb? That’s where the fruit is.” – Will Rogers

“There is no discovery without risk and what you risk reveals what you value.” – Jeanette Winterson

– Catie Holker


One thought on “Finding my passion in an unexpected place

  1. Thanks for sharing this, Catie! I also struggled with finding my place in the field, as I think many of us do. Although I’ve just entered the working world of student affairs, I think it’s safe to conclude that there is no one niche for me–I will always be somewhat of a generalist. I’m glad to hear you’ve begun to find your passion! Something I found to be powerful was when, in Capstone, we had the chance to re-read our personal statements from our admissions applications to the SDA program. I was surprised to find that my reasons for wanting to go into this field and my core values at that time had essentially remained the same…I had just lost sight of them throughout the whirlwind. It gave me a sense of clarity and purpose, and I hope others in the program can find that as well, whether through internships, reflection, work experience, mentorship, or all of the above!

    Lindsey P.

    P.S. From what I’ve heard and my interactions with them, College Success Foundation is another great local non-profit college readiness organization, if you’re interested in similar opportunities in the future.

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