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Careers in Student Affairs Month

Get a Job Get a Life

Hilda Silva, Ed.D. - VP for Student Affairs

Why did you choose a career in student affairs?

I earned my Master’s degree in Counseling and Guidance and I was looking for a job as a counselor. I was fortunate to obtain a counseling position at TSC in 1980. It was that position that allowed me to begin my career in higher education and specifically in Student Affairs. Being around university students energizes me. Understanding that we have an opportunity to influence the lives of our students and to better their future is powerful. Now, 33 years later, it is evident that this is not just a job but my life’s work.

What is your advice for students interested in student affairs?

I would encourage our students to talk to the various professionals within Student Affairs. The careers within this profession are so varied but they all have common themes…. You need to want to be of service to others and you need to understand that our work is not about an 8:00-5:00 job.. it requires commitment, compassion and a clear understanding that we are here to help educate our students. It is our role to offer those learning opportunities outside the classroom that can truly impact their lives and make their higher education journey more exciting.

In your opinion, what are the top 3 attributes of outstanding student affairs professional?

Outstanding student affairs professionals nurture a “Students First philosophy” in their day’s work. Secondly, their work is focused on what is best for our students and what can we do to help them succeed. Thirdly, they base their actions on professional competencies. They understand that our work is based on best practices and student development theories and they strive to know the latest research in their profession.

Douglas Stoves - Assistant Dean of Residential Life and Auxiliary Services

Why did you choose a career in student affairs?

My original intent in going to College, was to work for the Forestry Service in the Black Hills. So my undergraduate work was in Biology. My senior year, I began working for the Student Housing department, first as a summer RA and then as an RA. My supervisor at the time, John Wolters, was the Assistant Director for Residential Life. In my discussions with him, I began to understand and appreciate what was all entailed in the Residential Life program. I then began to have more discussions about working in Student Affairs with the Director of Student Development, Tom Wojciechowski and the VP of Student Development, Jim Miller. Then by fate, John decided he was not going to return. I then applied for his position in Residential Life. By that time, I was hooked. In the next two years, I went from Assistant Director to Director of Residential Life. However, the position of Director was a live on position. The opportunity came up for me to work with a newly started Talent Search program, which allowed me to live off campus. I also decided at that time that I would begin pursuing my Master’s degree in Community Counseling. In the course of working with middle and high school aged students. I came to realize that my real calling was working with College-aged students. When the opportunity arose, I jumped at the chance to return to Residential Life and Student Affairs. I have not looked back since!

What is your advice for students interested in student affairs?

My advice for students who are interested in student affairs would be to take every opportunity to get involved on your campus; be involved on committees, get involved on advisory boards and take the time to understand the importance of what you are doing to help your fellow students. Also, become involved in various aspects of the student affairs experience. If you work for Orientation, also try Student Life or Residential Life. If you find purpose in helping others succeed for a better future, then you are on the right track. Each one of my former students who have embraced Student Affairs as their profession all have a passion for what they do. And trust me, it is as exciting for me to see them succeed and be a part of the next generation of student affairs professionals, as it is for them!

In your opinion, what are the top 3 attributes of outstanding student affairs professional?

 

  1. Compassion.  Understanding where people are in their journey and truly caring about what in happening in their world.
  2. Patience.  Not everything that you do will have immediate results.  Sometimes, you are just planting the seeds.
  3. Integrity.  Being true to yourself and others is key to long lasting success.  Try to always be above reproach in your personal and professional dealings.

 

Please feel free to also add anything else you may want to add besides what’s asked on the questions.

My journey in Student Affairs was neither direct nor was it always intentional. However, each part of the journey was necessary to get to the next phase of my life. For example, I would have never imagined that as a young Biology major from Philadelphia, studying in Northern Wisconsin that I would eventually work at that same school, get my Master’s degree and eventually end up in South Texas, and that each day I would enjoy what I do! Every experience that I have had, built to the next and then the next, etc. And so I can say now, in hindsight, that I have had no regrets and appreciate each experience for what it is today and I look forward to integrating each experience into my future.

David Marquez - Director of Student Rights

Why did you choose a career in student affairs?

Early in my career as a campus police officer, I realized that every employee of the university has a job to do that somehow relates to students’ success. Professors have their contact with students in the classroom and staff outside of the classroom – but we all contribute to their educational experience. As a police officer, I helped to provide a safe campus environment which helps students to focus on their studies by not having to worry about their personal safety or that their vehicle is going to be burglarized while they’re in class. When I became aware of the services provided by Student Affairs and their work with providing additional support to various groups of students including those who are at high risk, I thought that it would be something that I would enjoy and also something that I could do very well. Many of our students are at high risk for not achieving their educational goals due to a number of contributing factors – some by choice and others by life. I felt strongly that I could use what I learned from my own learning experiences to help others overcome and succeed.

What is your advice for students interested in student affairs?

o Working in Student Affairs can be very rewarding in the sense that you will have constant opportunities to help students achieve their full potential. But you have to be fully committed to give it your best each and every day, be relentless and never pass on an opportunity to make a meaningful learning impression on a student that you encounter.

In your opinion, what are the top 3 attributes of outstanding student affairs professional?

An outstanding Student Affairs professional will have many attributes. Among the most essential I believe are:

  • genuine care and desire to help others;
  • knowledge, aptitude and reasoning skills;
  • Energy.
Leadership traits and communication skills are also very important – but remove any of the three bullets above – and it won’t matter much that you can put a team together and speak beautifully.

 

Noel Rodriguez - Director of CAMP

Why did you choose a career in student affairs?

I began my career in student affairs as a counselor/coordinator of Student Support Services at Columbia College Chicago in October of 1997. As a psychology major, I was fascinated by the Student Support Services counselor at my college because of the mentor-mentee relationship he had with students on campus so in the end I thought pursuing a career in higher education could be a good fit. Coincidentally, the counselor I referred to recruited me in 1997 to join him in implementing the Student Support Services grant at Columbia College in Chicago and since then, I have always felt I found my calling as a career. I pinpoint my undergraduate college experience to be the time in my life where I developed the fundamental skills necessary to give me a chance to succeed; it was then as a young adult that I grew and matured in leaps and bounds. A variety of student affairs staff at Purdue Calumet helped me believe I belonged in college, I could be the first in my family with a bachelor's degree and understand how valuable an education beyond high school is. Therefore, I chose student affairs because I believed it would give me the best chance to give back and share my own experiences as a college student with those from similar backgrounds as me.

What is your advice for students interested in student affairs?

Understand that there are plenty of opportunities out there in student affairs and that it's okay to be unsure about what specific component of student affairs to pursue as long as they are persistent with their gut feelings and challenge themselves to do what it takes get a "foot in the door."

In your opinion, what are the top 3 attributes of outstanding student affairs professional?

Student affairs professionals must be able to "keep up with the times" culturally and technologically and be able to think outside of the box as it relates to implementing ways to connect with students. Staff are responsible for preparing students for the world that will greet them upon graduation, this entails having high student expectations, holding students accountable for their actions but also showing pride and confidence with accomplishments.

Sergio Martinez - Executive Director of Student Engagement

Why did you choose a career in student affairs?

You don’t choose a career in student affairs; it chooses you through the various opportunities for engagement working in a university environment. I was very involved in student organizations, activities, volunteering, and service learning, in my undergraduate experience at UT Brownsville and when I found out that I could do this for a living, I never left.

What is your advice for students interested in student affairs?

It is a lifelong rewarding field and you have to earn your stripes the first five years, but if you excel in the work, the sky’s the limit.

In your opinion, what are the top 3 attributes of outstanding student affairs professional?

 

  • Having a passion for helping others grown and develop.
  • Agent of change through creative ideas.
  • Strong written and oral communication skills.

 

Please feel free to also add anything else you may want to add besides what’s asked on the questions.

Working in Student Affairs gives you access to work with a variety of professionals, students, and faculty. The daily interactions are never stagnant and every day offers a new unique challenge. The most rewarding part is seeing how your work directly impacts the success of a student and being able to watch them graduate and excel in their lives.

Monica Alvarado - Director of ASPIRE

Why did you choose a career in student affairs?

Now let’s be honest. Most students don’t attend college to pursue a career in Student Affairs…and like most students, what I wanted to do with my degree was to help people. Through my experiences working on as a student on campus, specifically in mentoring, I found my passion in helping students. The skills I learned and mastered as a student drove me to pursue a career in Student Affairs after graduation.

What is your advice for students interested in student affairs?

My advice is that it’s never too early to begin helping other students like yourself. Get involved on campus to become acquainted with students, faculty, staff, and the many resources available to students. If you can, get a student job in Student Affairs to practice becoming a pro!

In your opinion, what are the top 3 attributes of outstanding student affairs professional?

A Student Affairs professional must know their student demographics, encourage active learning, and must be able to adapt to new changes quickly.

• Please feel free to also add anything else you may want to add besides what’s asked on the questions.

If you are thinking about working in Student Affairs after you graduate, ask a Student Affairs professional if you can shadow them for a day to take a peek into our daily activities!

Steve Wilder - Disability Services Coordinator

Why did you choose a career in student affairs?

It’s not so much that I chose Student Affairs. It’s more like Student Affairs chose me. At the age of 30, married and with a child, I lost my job working for a publishing company. My search for a new job led me to the student services department of the Hadley School for the Blind, where I became director within a year or two. The school is in a Chicago suburb. I loved working with the students, staff and faculty of the school. The combination of student contact, office work and supervision of a small staff suited me well. Building on my bachelor’s degree in psychology, I decided to pursue a master’s degree in Management and Development of Human Resources. Upon completing that degree, my wife and I decided to move to south Texas. We saw a classified ad for a job opening at Texas Southmost College working with students with disabilities. It was my great good fortune to be hired by Dr. Olivia Rivas as a counselor to specialize in disability issues. That was nearly 26 years ago! At UTB/TSC, I earned a M.Ed. in Counseling and Guidance, thus linking myself even more securely to the work of student affairs.

What is your advice for students interested in student affairs?

Each job in student affairs is different, and there is no one career path. Needless to say, your education, work, volunteer and extra-curricular experiences are all very important, If you are a student on campus, becoming involved in student organizations, student government, or in work study jobs in Student Affairs could give you some valuable experience. A bachelor’s degree is a good start, but if you want to advance into more responsible leadership positions you will probably need a Master’s or more advanced degree.

In your opinion, what are the top 3 attributes of outstanding student affairs professional?

The first attribute might be sincerity. One has to have a sincere interest in the progress and well-being of students. Students can sense if you are genuine—whether you “really care”—or whether you are just going through the motions. Another top attribute is congeniality—the ability to get along well with others. And a third is creativity—the ability to solve the kinds of problems that come up in Student Affairs.

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