Mike Segawa - Why I am here
Thirty-seven years ago. It was September, 1977 I was beginning my year as a Resident Assistant at the University of California, Irvine and little did I know the impact that year of experience would have on my life choices. It set me firmly on a path that has me now serving as the Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students at the University of Puget Sound, a job I have loved from the day I was appointed to the position in 2004 to this very day I write this blog.
I love this work because it’s more than a job; it’s a vocation, a passion, a calling. Every day I’m surrounded by students who are among the brightest minds and most caring souls on the planet, work with a talented and supremely dedicated group of faculty and staff colleagues committed to student learning inside and outside of the classroom, spend my working hours on an absolutely gorgeous 99 acre plot of land, and live in one of the most beautiful corners of the world. Oh, and I get paid for this! What’s not to love?
Ok, there are the not-so-great days. Those times when a parent is convinced we have wronged their perfect child, the media writes that we in higher education are not in tune with the needs of our society, or legislators rant that we are overpriced and insensitive to the financial burdens on families. Never mind that parents don’t usually have a complete picture. The media doesn’t always report in context or accurately. The legislators are the ones who have reduced higher education funding to the point where many institutions are no longer essentially state funded just state located. Yes, there are those days and weeks and lately they seem to have been more pervasive than I remember from 20 years ago.
In spite of these challenges, I am reminded literally every day of the powerful impact of our efforts. Just today, our first day of the new academic year, I met with a student who wants to enter our profession. I participated in our weekly Cabinet meeting where we celebrated a colleague’s 33rd wedding anniversary. I advised a student who wants to provide their fellow students with an opportunity to serve local, underrepresented elementary school children through marine science education. I worked with colleagues from facilities and technology services to problem solve a residential service issue. I consulted with staff members who are strategizing how to best create a safer environment for two students in conflict. And we figured out a pizza order as a surprise treat for the first day of our leadership class. It’s amazing what positive impact a little bit of unhealthy food has! Again I ask, what’s not to love?
Every day I have the privilege of being part of a campus community and profession that holds sacred the learning and maturation of students. It is done with care, compassion, intelligence, discipline, and more than a little bit of humor and chocolate. Thirty-seven years ago I remember having very similar thoughts about the year I was starting as an RA. How many people can say these kinds of things about their career? Unfortunately too few but they likely didn’t have the advantage of a student affairs influenced education!
I believe my vocation has had meaning, I love what I do, I am surrounded by people who share very similar core values, the bills have been paid, my children are gainfully employed graduates of Western Washington University and Washington University in St. Louis, I met my wife 33 years ago through this work, I will likely retire sometime down the road with a secure financial foundation, and I live in a community that serves my lifestyle well. All this made possible because of a career that I fell into and some of you are considering. One final time: what’s not to love?