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.