Culmination Paper

The musical Rent (1994) tells the story of a year in the lives of friends living with HIV, homelessness and uncertain futures. The play tells stories of loss, love and the fact that there is really no day but today. There is one song that flows throughout the musical called Seasons of Love. In the song, the actors ask, “How do you measure, measure a year?” As I write one of my final papers for this amazing graduate program, I ask myself, how I have measured the last three years of my life. To answer that question, I wrote a poem.

How do you measure, measure three years
In monthly cohort conference calls
In heavy higher education text books
In Summer vacations at APU
In ICQ messaging on a Sunday night with Tira
How do you measure, measure three years
In morning cell phone calls with Heather
In care packages from Shauna
In laughter from Liz
In eating dark chocolate while talking on the phone with Suzie
How do you measure, measure three years
In Erin’s Timbuk 2 bags
In Saturday morning study sessions with Maricel at Starbucks in American Canyon
In midnight celebrations with Matthias right after I emailed off another paper
In receiving the letter grade A for eight straight classes
How do you measure, measure three years
In finding my passion with Strengths Quest
In taking Fridays off to write papers at Sunflower Cafe, Sonoma
In leading focus groups, interviewing student service managers and surveying students
In publishing my first online journal article
How do you measure, measure three years

I know that when I will look back on my life, one of my greatest highs and achievements will have been going through the College Student Affairs Summer track program at Azusa Pacific University (APU). These last three years have given me more then I ever imagined. Not only will I have achieved a Masters in Education, but deep down inside I made lasting friendships and found a new sense of confidence, and appreciation for the field of student affairs.

How my understanding of student affairs has changed
When I first started the CSA program, I was confident in my ability to coordinate student activities and advise student government. I had been at my job for three years and I was ready to become a student affairs professional. Today, I have a clear understanding of student development theory, have mastered effective counseling skills, and fluent in management styles. I now see student affairs professionals as the experts on campus we turn to when we want to know the student pulse.

Before I started APU, I could not name one student development theorist. Today, I can refer to Austin’s involvement theory, Chickering’s seven vectors of student development and Nancy Schlossberg’s Transition theory. I enjoyed the course assignments that required referencing or becoming familiar with a student development theory. One assignment I am most proud of was the CSA 552 Process of Adult Development course research paper on a student development theorist. We were expected to understand their theory and develop two examples of student development experiences that could benefit their theory. For this assignment, I researched Schlossberg’s Transition theory that she worked on with Chickering. I compared their theory of traditional age college student moves through three stages in college. They moving in, moving through and moving out. I found that community college students who transfer to a four-year university, experience Schlossberg and Chickering’s theory twice. Now that I have finished the program, I hope to develop my findings and publish them in a higher education journal.

When I applied to APU, I knew I was going into a program that was not counseling based. At the community college level, most aspiring student service professionals take the counseling route. In my heart, I knew that what I wanted to become was not a general counselor but an expert in the college experience. APU’s CSA program did offer three counseling course that I did extremely well in. Those courses were CSA 552 The Process of Adult Development, CSA 583 Counseling Issues and Practice, and CSA 563 Counseling: The Helping Relationship. In each course, I learned how to assess student needs, and how to implement and understand self identity, cultural, and mental health awareness. Overall, I am most proud of my personal counseling outline/helping chart. The outline chart is a guide I use to help assess a student’s crisis and provide support to the student. The guide I use is HALT. Halt stands for Hungry, Angry, Lonely, and Tired. For example, I have used HALT when students wanted to quit student government, a class, or planning an event. Before I would continue the conversation, I assess the situation by asking, “Are you hungry? Are you angry? Are you lonely? As you tired?” I learned HALT at my first CCCSAA professional conference, Riverside CA, back in 2002. I am not sure who the person was but their tool of assessing a situation has helped me tremendously.

Today’s college student affair professionals are leading enrollment management offices, counseling divisions and student engagement programs. Since being part of the APU’s CSA program, especially after taking the CSA 553 Administration in College Student Affairs course and reading Reframing Organizations Artistry, Choice, and Leadership Third Edition by Lee G. Bolman and Terrence E. Deal (2003) published by Jossey-Bass, San Francisco, I can now pinpoint and name different styles of management that exists at my college. I also have a better understanding of which management styles I work best in and what my own way of leading is. Before I started the program, I approached management mainly focusing on facilitating and arranging. Today, I have mastered the ability to be proactive and how to implement policy and procedures. I am capable of program evaluation, budget management and fiscal responsibilities. I support the safety and well being of college students. I understand the need and importance for collaboration and open communication between student service departments and instruction. I also am a visionary leader, a kind advisor and a believer in Strengths Based Advising.

Competencies I have grown the most in

The APU CSA program instruction is guided by twelve competencies. I have mastered all twelve. The three that I grew the most in were #5 Counseling and Personal Development, #8 Legal and Ethical Issues, and #10 Managing Conflict and Crisis. I grew by having hands on learning experiences through our assignments. My professional experience of working full-time as the Coordinator of Student Life at Napa Valley College was considered equivalent to a grad school internship. The CSA assignments motivated me to work with other campus departments to implement current student affairs trends and evaluate student needs.

In the competency of Counseling and Personal Development, I learned skills that improved my advising. During my elective course, CSA 598 Strengths Implementation, I was trained in Strengths Based Advising. In the last year of the program, I introduced Strengths Based Advising to my student government leaders. It was a huge success. The students were more self assured and worked better as a team. I noticed an improvement in how I advised and approached their learning. I found Strengths Based Advising an excellent and effective tool.

In the competency of Legal and Ethical Issues, I learned the history of higher education and higher education law. Since being in the CSA program, I have grown in the area of implementing legal policy and procedures. At Napa Valley College I was instrumental in improving campus awareness of student rights and responsibilities. In my role as the Coordinator of Student Life, I worked closely with the Office of Student Services and the faculty senate committee Student Standards and Practice to gather the most important legal campus policies. I arranged them into one place for easy access. Students, staff and faculty can now access the Student Code of Conduct, Family Education and Privacy Act (FERPA), Release of Information and more, all by clicking Student Rights and Responsibilities under A-Z on the campus website.

The third competency I grew the most in was Managing Conflict and Crisis. In the CSA program, I learned the importance of student affairs’ role in educating faculty and staff on how to manage and support the mental health of college students. I organized and facilitated workshops around cultural programming and mental health for my campus flex- days and at my professional conferences.

Looking Back
When I applied to APU, in my personal statement I wrote my long-term goal is to become a student affairs faculty member who works closely with other faculty and student services staff to link student activities into the development of the whole student. The kind of life I want would be filled with advising students, teaching cultural programming and leadership courses and directing the next theatre production.

Three years later, the kind of life I want now is more about balance and acceptance. There is an old saying that goes You can have it all, just not at the same time. Prior to starting this graduate program, I spent five years talking about applying. Some years, the reasons that kept me from going were doing theatre. Others years it was to find a husband. In the same year I discovered APU’s CSA Summer Track program, I met my future husband Matthias Worch. On my twenty eighth birthday I mailed off my graduate application to APU. That summer I was writing my first paper. Something inside me said together you can make each other better. Now, I am 31 years old and I have a Masters in Education and a husband.

Goals for the next three to five years

As we both look forward to the future, we realize that we can have all of our dreams, just not at the same time and not at the expense of our marriage. Some immediate goals I have are applying for adjunct faculty jobs in the area of first year experience. I would like to have the chance to work part-time when we start having a family. I am interested in rewriting some of my papers and sending them off to be published. I also am ready to take that next step towards a job with more responsibility and clout. In the next three years, I would like to apply for a position in administration or faculty that manages and develops student leadership and student service programs. My first choice is to work at a community college. I am also open to working at a public or private university.

I know that if I want to make God laugh, all I need to do is make a plan. I trust the universe will guide me well. I also hope that with everything I have learned and experience at APU, I will trust my strengths and continue this journey in student affairs.

Leave a Reply