Another Meaning to #SAAdjacent


naspa graduate associate program gap

Author
Christy Adkins, Texas State University

Published
May 9, 2017


While attending the 2017 NASPA Annual Conference in San Antonio, Texas, I saw an educational session titled “#SAAdjacent: Working “with” Student Affairs, not “in” Student Affairs.” I immediately thought, “Yes! This is so for me!” Except…not quite.

Currently, I am a first-year (turning second year) graduate student in the Student Affairs and Higher Education program at Texas State University. There, I serve as the graduate assistant for Alumni Relations. Throughout my first semester of graduate school, I began to notice that my assistantship seemed a little different from my peers’ experiences. It didn’t dawn on me until I wasn’t invited to our “Student Affairs Kickoff” event that it was because my office was not under the Division of Student Affairs. I began to wonder why I was even in my assistantship; I thought I was supposed to learn all about student affairs?!

There were other things I didn’t expect either. No one else in my office (aside from my supervisor) was focused on students. I was hoping for mentors and an office full of student affairs professionals! Not to mention, our office is located in the administration building across campus... So I never really see students unless they’re intentionally looking for me. There was no doubt about it – my experience was very different compared to my peers who worked in student affairs.

Due to the differences and constantly hearing my peers’ experiences, I began to feel isolated and alone at times. I battled the feelings and decided to reach out to mentors of mine. One in particular asked me: “But isn’t it empowering, too, to be the only student affairs person?” I had never thought of it that way, but they were right. I was the one who knew student development theory. I was the one becoming an expert on students! I was in a prime spot to be an advocate for students. It finally made me realize why I was there: to be the support and voice for our student organization and other student programs.

While the #SAAdjacent session I mentioned was more focused on individuals working outside of higher education but in close coordination with student affairs (not quite my experience), it still resonated with me. All the panelists alluded to similar theme: Even though we were all not directly working in student affairs, we were still working for students and student affairs professionals.

Since then, I have realized that there are many offices who may work largely with/for students, but are not under the Division of Student Affairs. I wasn’t alone! I recognize my experience was largely due to my expectations and this being my first student affairs experience. But if there are any others out there who may feel the same isolation I felt, remember this: Turn your isolation into empowerment. You are doing your work for your students, and ultimately… that’s the part that really matters.


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