Undergraduate degrees can increase future employment opportunities, but how often do we use our undergraduate degree skills in a student affairs profession? The answer is daily. No matter what your undergraduate major degree subject, it has prepared you for working in a higher education environment. Understanding how to navigate a higher education institution begins when the professional pursues their undergraduate degree, and it prepares student affairs professionals to facilitate what they want the students they serve to experience.
My undergraduate degree was in communications, which is very broad and can encompass multiple industries. But the skills that I have learned in simply receiving an undergraduate degree include critical thinking skills, personal growth and development, creativity, how to work on a team, and civic involvement. These skills are all necessary in a student affairs profession and can be beneficial for servicing students as well as employee advancement.
Critical thinking skills
Thinking critically is essential when working in a student affairs department. This skill allows you to assess situations thoroughly and be able to present alternative solutions to problems that may arise. In working directly with students, professionals must be able to work based on the individual needs of students. Critical thinking is helpful when student affairs professionals must solve problems in a methodological way. Recognizing unique solutions to problems and organizing resources to better serve students is beneficial in the day-to-day activities of student affairs professions.
Personal growth and development
Obtaining an undergraduate degree is a form of personal growth and development. Achieving this goal requires self-reflection, discipline, and goal setting. Recognizing your own personal growth and development is crucial in deepening your understanding of the students you work with. Self-reflection is an ongoing process, and the more you are able to understand how you have grown as a person and learned from your experiences, the better equipped you will be to serve students in a higher education environment.
All bachelor’s degree programs require a level of creativity whether or not they have a liberal arts focus. Creativity is the girth of a student affairs profession because higher education environments foster the ability to enact change. Developing new solutions to problems, designing student affairs programs, and sharing creative ways of approaching different situations with colleagues is extremely beneficial. Creativity is a skill that can be developed, and with the initial skills that you possess or develop after your undergraduate degree program, you will be able to learn new ways of working with students that will serve the greater good of the higher education community.
Working on a team
All student affairs professionals work on teams. The profession itself functions as a cohesive collection of separate units, departments, and colleges. Undergraduate degree programs prepare you to work on a team through group projects, involvement in student organizations, campus activities and events, and even living in a residence hall. All facets of a university encourage students and employees to collaborate and share ideas, and this idea doesn’t stop once you obtain your degree.
Undergraduate degree holders are significantly more involved in civic engagement. Student organizations can prepare you for working in a student affairs profession, but so can walking around on-campus during election season. Higher education environments encourage students to participate in local, state and federal elections and often host a plethora of resources for obtaining election information and voter registration. Civic involvement in student affairs professions is especially important when working directly with students. You may have a role wherein your job is to manage certain student organizations, or work on special events and projects related to helping students understand why voting matters. It also makes you a more involved member of your student affairs profession when you can understand how your voice and opinions matter in the decision-making processes related to your job.
Undergraduate degrees are often necessary for obtaining a job in student affairs. Higher education environments constantly encourage learning and developing for both students and employees. There are many professional skills that you can learn from your undergraduate degree, these are just a few that will contribute to your growth as a student affairs employee. Serving the greater good of the university begins with a skilled student affairs professional who is able to think critically and creatively on a team. Reflect on your undergraduate experience and think about how it has prepared you for your job in student affairs today. There may be many facets of your college experience that you didn’t even realize contribute to how you navigate your workload and enact positive change in your profession today.
Author: Danielle Amaddeo (she/her/hers) works as an MBA Careers Team Assistant for the Career Center for Working Professionals at New York University, Stern School of Business. She is currently pursuing her graduate degree in Higher Education and Student Affairs at New York University, Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development. She is especially passionate about writing and currently serves on the NYU Journal of Student Affairs Executive Board as the Publicity and Recruitment Chair. She enjoys cooking new recipes, reading, blogging, and spending time with her puppy. Danielle can be found on Linkedin at: https://www.linkedin.com/in/damaddeo/