Kansas Membership Coordinator

Alyssa Wendel, Kansas Membership Coordinator

May 7, 2018

As I sit here reflecting this spring semester and anticipating graduation, I cannot believe how quickly this year has flown by. Graduation is always an exciting time not only for the students but the parents, families, faculty and staff! This time of year we get to celebrate our students for their hard work over the course of the semester, year, and their time at our institutions. After spring break, everything seems to go in the blink of an eye and here we are, graduation is near! Graduating seniors are anticipating their last few weeks in classes and preparing for the “real world”. Life after graduation will typically look different for everyone whether that means getting a job, graduate school, time off, studying abroad; whatever their next step is, it’s our time to celebrate them now!

We recently just had our end of the year awards banquet which recognized individuals from each program on our campus, students in leadership positions, and distinguished awards such as most inspirational student, outstanding graduating senior, and student employee of the year. The best part of this awards banquet is the fact it is student led. This is an opportunity for students to lift their peers up and recognize them for their extraordinary efforts. One award sticks to mind: the most inspirational student. This student is a first-generation, non-traditional, working mother who is a week away from graduation and experienced a life-altering health issue in the fall. Even after being admitted to the hospital, she attempted to Zoom into her class that evening, all because she was determined nothing would stop her from graduating in May, not even a stroke. She has overcome so much this year with her speech and physical therapy appointments, classes, and full-time internship that would have had most running the opposite way. Her determination and drive has been truly remarkable and one that has inspired her peers. She shares her story with peers about where she was when she started here as a student and all the battles she has overcome. She’s been able to overcome obstacles life has thrown her way because of the outpouring support from her instructors, mentors, advisors, peers, and, most importantly, her daughter who is also pursuing her bachelor’s degree. When the going got rough and she wanted to give up, she was supported and reminded why she started her education in higher education and ultimately, it was her determination and drive that has helped her to get where she is today.

I recently attended a conference where Rueben Perez was a keynote. Rueben presented on wisdom, courage and heart from the Wizard of Oz. As student affairs professionals, our hearts are full because of our students. We all know we didn’t pursue higher education because of the salaries we would earn; we chose this career because of the love and passion we have for our students and higher education. More than likely, we found this career path because of those who helped shape our undergraduate or graduate experience. In my opinion, our hearts are the lifeline of student affairs. Without heart, what do we have? Our hearts are what brought us to where we are today, and the hearts of our students will take them as far as they want. I shared this story about my student because I know she’s not the only one walking across the stage at graduation this month with a ton of obstacles that she has overcome. I am sharing this because it’s a reminder of all the hard work we do as student affairs professionals day in and day out, with no questions asked. While I am raising this student up because of everything she’s gone through, I am also raising all of my fellow peers, colleagues and friends up because you are all truly gifted student affairs professionals.  I’m lifting you up and cheering you on because your love and outpouring effort to your students has left a remarkable impression in their hearts, one they will treasure forever.

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