Before starting to write this blog post, I’d like to begin by clarifying that this is NOT a recruitment post. This blog post is unlike the emails and announcements you’ve likely received about the student development dance marathon (DM) team. This post is about getting finding community and why I do what I do. And it is also not the most coherent piece of writing… so, don’t say I didn’t warn you!
So – hi, my name is Ruth and I’m a first year student in the SDA program J Last quarter was my first quarter in the SDA program and—I’m just going to say it—it was hell. It was truly an emotional rollercoaster ride for many reasons and there were many, many times when I doubted my decision to be here and try to tackle this thing called grad school. I was taking a full course load (ed research, foundations, and theory) while working 20 hours a week at my GAship in Student Activities. On top of that, I was still transitioning to a new city, new school, new apartment, having a new roommate, and trying to make new friends. For some reason, everything was just so challenging and I had solution for fixing any of it.
After trudging through a good chunk of the quarter, I came to acknowledge that I had no community here in Seattle. Sure, there was the entire SDA community of 50+ people but I didn’t think that I had connected enough with people to feel completely comfortable around them. And being the highly relational person that I am, that was not an easy situation for me to be in and I wanted out. In my personal life, I couldn’t think of many people I felt comfortable in reaching out to and, at work, my relationships with coworkers and students seemed pretty superficial as well. At times, it was even difficult to remember why I wanted to be a part of the field of student affairs in the first place.
Towards the end of the quarter, somehow, Simone and I started talking about DM. Initially, I hadn’t planned on participating in DM as a dancer – I just wanted to bounce the idea of a team off of her and see what she thought. After hearing about her DM experience and passion towards the cause, I thought, “Why not? I don’t have a good reason to not do it.” Together, we decided to create the division of student development’s first DM team and Simone came up with our awesome team name, Theory à Dance Practice! One of my roles in my GAship is serving as co-advisor to DM’s steering committee. So, at the next DM meeting, I told my students that Simone and I were creating a student development DM team and we hoped to get some staff/faculty involved as well. The students were thrilled! I thought to myself, “Uh oh, now that I’ve announced it publicly, I better commit to it and follow through so that I don’t disappoint anyone.” And I’m SO glad I did! DM has definitely helped me find community here at SU and in Seattle. My decision to commit to DM as a dancer has helped me grow closer to my students and it has allowed me to use my relational strengths in talking to my fellow SDA peers and student development colleagues to recruit them to join our team or encourage them to support the cause in some way. More importantly, a lesson I learned from Simone is: being a professional is about more than just doing your job well – it’s also about getting involved with your students’ passions!
Hearing this perspective from Simone made a huge difference in how I now approach my work and relationships with my students. Before, I would feel really awkward talking to students about topics beyond our advisor-advisee relationship. I wasn’t sure if it was appropriate to ask about their personal lives or try to get to know them more. I didn’t want to be crossing boundaries that I thought might have existed. But did those boundaries really exist? I have no idea. By choosing to participate in DM as a dancer, I suddenly shared a lot more commonalities with my students. We all had fundraising goals we wanted to achieve, we believed in the DM movement, and we were all part of the greater DM community. It was pretty awesome to feel like an insider instead of just an advisor looking in. And it was awesome to see the students’ excitement about having such a different population involved with DM!
Over winter break, I reflected a lot about my experience in the SDA program and my GAship so far. I took the break as a chance to figure out what I wanted to do once I came back to Seattle and how I would try to tackle 2nd quarter. Instead of setting New Year’s resolutions, I decided on a theme for 2014: creating happiness. With this theme, I can do whatever I believe contributes to my happiness! I believe getting involved with DM is one of the things that will bring me happiness this quarter. Being a part of the DM movement allows me to be in community with those who share a similar passion as me and it allows me to strengthen my relationships with my students. Furthermore, being involved with DM outside of my courses and GAship responsibilities reminds me of why I wanted to work in student affairs in the first place – the people and the meaningful relationships I share with them!
I encourage you to find something your students are passionate about and get involved with it as a participant, not just as their advisor/mentor/whatever your formal role or relationship is with your students. I believe, as grad students and professionals, it is easy to get too busy and too tired to even think about putting your energy into something else outside of your required duties. But isn’t getting involved with our students’ passions what our work is about?
I apologize for the very disjointed blog post/mass reflection/ramblings. I hope this was somewhat enjoyable to read and I sincerely hope that perhaps it encouraged you to reflect on how you are/can get involved with your students’ passions! J I shall now include some fun pictures of DM to make up for my ramblings:
– Ruth Huang