From #SAGrad to #SAPro

Kevin Wright

September 19, 2016

I graduated only 3 months ago, and yet it still feels weird knowing I did not have to meet with the financial aid office, purchase textbooks, or prepare for a 3-hour class.  Transitioning from a graduate student to a full-time professional hasn’t had that many challenges, but here are some changes I’ve noticed, along with some things that haven’t changed at all.


As a graduate assistant, I was only obligated to work 20 hours a week.  However, even with the benefits I had, I still needed more money to get through my financial struggles.  On top of my graduate assistantship, along with my practicum internship, I had 3 part-time jobs all while being a full-time graduate student.  Although not an ideal situation, I know I’m not the only person who has experienced this, and like others, I made it work. Collectively, I was already working 40 hours a week.  Now that I am a full-time professional, I have felt a sense of relief because I can gladly work 40 hours with only one job.  Yes, I have multiple responsibilities, but they’re all under one job and one title.  I’ve had 3 jobs minimum since the age of 15, and now at 24, I’m doing all that I can to leave that lifestyle behind.


As a graduate student, I was paid monthly.  This definitely was a culture shock for me, I honestly thought getting paid every two weeks was a federal policy, but clearly I was wrong.  At my current institution, I get paid monthly as well, but I’m actually getting compensated with a fair amount I can actually budget through the course of a month.  So many things changed when I transitioned from budgeting a 3-digit paycheck to a 4-digit paycheck.  I’m able to financially support my family, I don’t have to worry about missing payments on my own bills, and I can be more comfortable with taking care of personal expenses.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I’m ballin’, but I can at least say I’m not eating ramen and wheat bread for dinner every other night.


Even as a full-time professional, I don’t think my sense of engagement will ever change.  I have mentors that have told me to always make sure I get involved wherever my career takes me.  As an undergraduate student, I was highly involved as a student leader, but as a graduate student, it was interesting to see how I was in a grey area; my involvement comprised of being involved as a graduate student leader, along with serving as undergraduate student advisor.  Now as a full-time professional, I have the opportunity to fully advise student clubs and organizations I was once a part of.  One of my mentors is always asking me “Kevin, what are you doing to give back?”  This is the best way I know how to give back.  Broaden the pathways for others to be successful.


Just like my level of engagement, my willingness to always learn something new will never change.  As a graduate student, I was learning about different practices, processes, and theories that influence and shape the craft of our work in student affairs.  Yet as a full-time professional, I’m learning about different ways to actually apply that knowledge I obtained in 2 years.  Yes, there were moments where I would have some applicable experiences through my assistantship or practicum internship, but now that I’m in a position where holistic student development has my full attention, I’m able to develop additional ways to serve and positively impact my students.

Some of my colleagues had rough transitions from #SAGrads to #SAPros, but I’m grateful that mine was not that bad at all.  I will admit the transition was quite expensive since I graduated from an institution in Portland, OR, went back home to Las Vegas, NV to visit my family, and then traveled to Cincinnati, OH to start work.  To anyone getting ready to make a big transition as I did, my biggest piece of advice to you is to save up as much as you can.  Also, go where you can grow, go where you can make a positive impact, and go where you can be valued.

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Kevin Wright hails from Las Vegas, Nevada and currently serves as the Community Coordinator in the department of Resident Education and Development at the University of Cincinnati. He earned his master’s degree in Student Affairs Administration from Lewis & Clark College, along with his bachelor’s in Communication Studies with a minor in Sociology from Northern Arizona University. His hobbies include traveling, networking, going to concerts, and endlessly watching Netflix. Kevin aspires to become a college president so he can advocate for more affordability and accessibility for students wanting to pursue a higher education.

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