One of the most important aspects of being in student affairs is being in a position to pave the way for upcoming professionals and students. In doing this, you practice being a leader and or mentor in a person’s life. As a current or future member of WISA, we must practice implementing our WISA principles in our everyday practice. For reference, the following represent the main principles that we follow under the umbrella of WISA:
- Identify issues that are important to womxn working in student affairs and elevating the awareness of these issues across members, our association, and the profession.
- Address equity concerns and advocate for people of marginalized identities, with a specific focus on womxn and the intersections of their identities.
- Promote a community among womxn in student affairs, providing opportunities for authentic mentoring and relationship-building.
- Provide accessible professional development opportunities designed to address gender equity issues and promote personal/professional growth.
- Promote opportunities for womxn in student affairs to find their professional voice as advocates for equity issues.
- Support womxn who aspire to enter the professional field of student affairs and those also preparing for professional advancement. (Women in Student Affairs About, n.d)
Personally, my journey in student affairs is relatively new. I represent an upcoming group of student affairs professionals that will continue to work towards equality and creating safer spaces for womxn and womxn of color in higher education. However, having a mentor and being a mentor is one that I have been fortunate to experience.
In taking the principle: Promote a community among womxn in student affairs, providing opportunities for authentic mentoring and relationship-building, several ideas come to mind. One way to have a reliable and authentic mentoring experience for other professionals and students is by actively engaging in organizations on your campus or within your community that have an emphasis on promoting bonds and networking opportunities for womxn and young student affairs professionals.
At my university, some students actively participate in weekly meetings and events that help bridge the gap between faculty and staff as well as networking. Within the organization, campus and community events are created, so students and also student affairs professionals remain aware of issues that affect womxn in the community and as a whole.
Another way to increase relationship building and mentorship in our roles would be to adopt a student or working professional. Each of us has something to learn and gain from each other’s experiences, both personally and professionally. Most people, when they think of a mentor, some would view it as a role that is domineering in that they are in place to dictate a person's destiny and path. However, I firmly believe a mentor is an epitome of what is considered support. Without support, many systems in a person's life are altered and could potentially be altered. So, looking ahead, I challenge the readers of this blog and within the WISA community to examine their roles as mentors and reflect on those who have served as mentors for you. How of your mentors helped you in a way that has led to your success in student affairs and life? How have your mentees viewed your support and dedication towards them?
Given that there is a myriad of questions that can be derived around this subject, I will not attempt to unearth them all. However, I want this blog post to serve as a conversation piece that starts just that: an active conversation. If you notice that there is not a current mentoring system in place at your institution or university that is active in the role, I encourage you to discuss how to get the wheels turning. Also, if there is a mentoring platform at your institution and you are not presently active, I hope that you consider joining and begin in the journey towards affecting and influencing positive change with the womxn you encounter or have yet to encounter.
In closing, I liked to take a moment to reflect on Sharon Deloz Parks’ contribution to the meaning process in student development. “Given the status of higher education as a cultural institution dedicated to reflection and inquiry, educations have a distinct opportunity and a particular responsibility to shepherd students through their formative and defining moments,” (Parks, 2000, pg. 321) The same principle and concept is applicable for student affairs professionals. So, with that being stated, happy mentoring for those beginning the journey and thank you for those that have already made a difference and continue to make a difference in other’s lives.
McClellan, G. S. (2016). The handbook of student affairs administration (4th ed.). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, a Wiley Brand.
(n.d.). Women in Student Affairs About. Retrieved from https://www.naspa.org/constituent-groups/kcs/women-in-student-affairs/history
Parks, S. D. (2000). Big questions, worthy dreams: Mentoring young adults in their search for meaning, purpose, and faith. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
About the Author: Shanita Sanders
Shanita Sanders is a second-year graduate student at Arkansas State University Jonesboro. She presently works in the Multicultural Center, where she assists with cultural and diversity supported programming and training. She is the advisor for both the H.O.L.A (Hispanic Outreach and Latino Appreciation) and NTSO (Non-Traditional Student Organization) registered student organizations on campus. She is set to graduate in May of 2020 with her second Masters under the discipline of College Student Personnel Services. She has a beautiful, two-year-old daughter Avery whom she is consistently amazed by every day.
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