Ángel De Jesús González
October 9, 2017
I never imagined finding my niche in higher education at the community college level. I attended a 4-year liberal arts college for my undergraduate journey and a large state university for my graduate career. Until about a year ago, I saw myself being rooted within a private liberal arts college. However, this shifted upon finishing my first full time student affairs professional role. Once I was ready to job search, I really reflected on my values and what kind of institution would have values that aligned with mine of access and equity. After talking with mentors and also speaking with my familia, I decided to apply to my current role.
I serve as the Assistant Director for Student Life at Shoreline Community College, a community college 12 miles north of Seattle, WA. From a professional perspective, I wanted to diversify my experiences, and having community college work experience would make me a well-rounded professional moving forward. One of the biggest contributors that motivated me to seek this opportunity was my older sister. The same year I graduated from my graduate program in 2014, after 10 years at East Los Angeles Community College, she finally completed her A.A. I felt that this achievement was bigger than mine given her lived experience as a teen mother. I also thought about the ways she lacked institutional support and guidance to achieve her endeavors. This really resonated with me and I told her I wanted to be the person I had in undergrad and the person she needed. Similar to this, I also realized that a lot of students with shared identities of being first-generation, latinx, and from low socioeconomic communities start their educational trajectories in the community college. For these various reasons I decided to pursue my current role.
As the inaugural Assistant Director for Student Life, I have had tremendous support from my supervisor in leading and expanding existing initiatives. One major project I have led has been our New Student Orientation (NSO), where I have helped develop learning outcomes derived from the CAS standards. For the first time ever we assessed NSO to help improve the program and more importantly to ensure a meaningful and intentional experience that meets the needs for incoming students. I have worked collaboratively with other departments and managed, for the first time ever, to have our NSO welcoming with all our domestic and international students. Although this might be something small for some institutions, within the community college field, it is a huge step toward capturing the student experience.
Another amazing initiative I have helped expand is our food pantry program on campus. This support for students was started by Dr. Yvonne Terrell-Powell, now the Associate Vice President for Equity and Inclusion at Edmonds Community College. I have been able to provide structure for the program and set hours, to provide funding sources both monetary and goods through campus and community partnerships, and create a pop-up pantry event quarterly to help raise student awareness of the service. Given the national statistics around food insecurity and college students, this initiative is something I’m really passionate about and continue to be excited in growing. Although I have only been in my role for a little over a year, I know I have been able to cultivate some great initiatives to help support the students I serve. One of my upcoming tasks is to expand on support for evening students and help identify potential breast-feeding locations on campus.
Transitioning into a community college has not been easy and can be quite challenging. For me, it is a matter of reframing your perspective and seeing obstacles and challenges as potential opportunities to be creative. I have been very intentional in seeking support of other folx within community colleges such as NASPA’s CCD and specially the Community College Division Latinx Taskforce. If anyone is looking to make the move, really reflect on your why and understand it will be an adjustment. I have truly enjoyed working in a community college thus far and see myself producing scholarly research that speaks to this experience and helps practitioners best support the diverse student populations these institutions aim to serve.
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