This next post in the SA Storytellers series comes from my kindred-spirit-storyteller, Becca Obergefell. She is currently the Assistant Director for Student Involvement at Ohio Dominican University– some people call her “that girl from Twitter.” Here is her story:
I knew I would go to college—I had been training for this my whole life. Generations of women had been telling me “graduate, go to college, get a good job, live with your girlfriends…then you can think about getting married and having kids.” I crammed in AP classes, scored well on my ACT, and had a long list of extra-curricular activities; I was ready.
My mom suggested I consider the local community college for a few years and then transfer to a four-year school to save money. She worked at the community college and I could have had two years of free tuition, but as a single mom, she couldn’t help me pay if I decided to go somewhere else. I was determined to get the whole college experience, including the part where I moved away and lived on campus.
I showed up to Ashland University on moving day, ready to move into Clark Hall 120 – only to be turned away to the Business Office to pay my remaining bill. I didn’t know the balance had to be paid to move-in (or how I would cover it, for that matter). Nobody told me what it was like to be a first generation college student, but how could they have known?
It didn’t take long after that to find my footing. I joined the dance team, a sorority, a campus ministry group, and secretly played in the concert band on a scholarship. Every weekend I drove home to squeeze in a double shift or two to start saving for my spring semester tuition. Eventually I found jobs on campus—cold calling high school seniors for admissions, eventually getting promoted to the coveted tour guide position. As a junior my involvement increased and led me to an internship with Student Affairs. I added a second internship as a senior working for the campus Center for Nonviolence.
Busy as I was, the Student Affairs internship provided free housing and a welcome relief to both my weekend work schedule and semester bills. Lo and behold, it was also my gateway to a career in Student Affairs. I spent two years as an education major before I decided to pursue a BA in English and Journalism instead. Initially, I hired on scrambling for internship credit to support my journalism and public relations skills. Somewhere in the middle of my senior year (with many thanks to great mentors along the way) I realized that this was exactly the kind of teacher I wanted to be.
Although I think my path to Student Affairs as a career is reminiscent of many others, it’s still my unique experience. I take this approach in my work with students too—no matter how many times we hear the same issues and put on the same programs, they are still special and new to each student.
This is the first post in the SA Storytellers series. Joe Sabado is the Associate Director of Information Systems and Software Development, Student Information Systems and Technology in the Division of Student Affairs at UC Santa Barbara. Here is his story.
I work for the central student affairs technology department at UCSB. A colleague once told me “Sometimes we forget that you’re more than a techie, we tend to put you in the IT box.” I typically have not shared my experience as a non-techie in student affairs so I can’t blame them for putting me in the techie box. But as much as I love technologies and the satisfaction of being able to implement information systems, delivering technology is not what I think what my job is. My job is student service. I consider myself as a student affairs professional working with technologies and not a technologist working in student affairs.
I have always enjoyed working with students since I came to UCSB in 1991 and when I became a professional staff in the same department I work for now in 1996. I have always hoped to make a positive difference in their lives and this is what motivates me. Serving in student-led committees, reading admissions applications, and serving as student organization advisor, activities outside my technologist role, provide me with personal satisfaction and serve as reminders of who I serve.
What I also find rewarding about student affairs is that I learn so much about so many different aspects of life, not just student life, but life in general. My role has allowed me to work with all departments in UCSB Student Affairs. For example:
I enjoy a career that combines my interests in technologies and student affairs. I left student affairs 3 times to pursue other opportunities but I ended up coming back. I am not sure what the future holds, given budget cuts and efforts to combine university units but what I do know is that to this point in my life, having a career in student affairs has been really great, professionally and personally.
October is Careers in Student Affairs Month and I think it’s a great opportunity for us to reflect, and to share our appreciation and experiences with others. Most importantly, it’s a chance to tell our stories.
I want to hear your stories. Yes, yours.
In 2010 I posted a series of Student Affairs Snapshots, which highlighted the careers of SA professionals across the United States. I’d like to do something similar this year, but with an emphasis on your journey.
What’s your story? Why student affairs?
Please email your 300-600 word story or 4-5 minute video to firstname.lastname@example.org, and I will post them here on my site beginning on October 1. Please include your contact information (email, Twitter handle, LinkedIn, Facebook, blog, etc.) so others can reach out to you.
Let’s build and strengthen connections within our community and help to encourage our graduate students and new professionals. Can’t wait to hear your stories!