Motivation in Student Affairs

Jordan O'Roark, NASPA IV-W Arkansas Membership Coordinator

April 27, 2017

Motivation is a fickle feeling!  Sometimes, working in higher education, it is really easy to get motivated…..yet other times, it become very hard.  I would venture to say that very few of us expected to work in student affairs when we started as a student in college. I bet the majority of us didn’t even know what student affairs was when we first stepped foot on campus.  Nonetheless, if you are reading this message, you are most likely working in higher education in some capacity……..loving it some days, and dreading it others.

I have noticed during my tenure working in higher education, especially in student affairs, it becomes hard to get motivated.  When each of us graduated and entered student affairs, our motivation revolved around factors such as: affecting positive change, paying it forward, it was our calling, positive work environment, wanting to be a mentor, advocating for at-risk populations……and so on.  Do these things still motivate us?  Yes……probably at times.  But what motivates us during those hard, most difficult times?  That is a hard question to answer.  I assume we are all still motivated by the factors above……but are we AS motivated after 5-10-15-20-25 years in this profession?

If you think this piece was written to solve the world’s problem and explain to you how to stay motivated, you are unfortunately mistaken.  To be honest, I still have times when I am unmotivated, feeling under-appreciated, secretly cussing the leadership in my head, and searching for the next position.  Don’t we all have these feelings from time to time?  I wrote this piece to provide you with some motivational expressions that maybe we could use from time-to-time to help us get through the tough, unmotivated times.  Hopefully, you will enjoy some of these…..and maybe even use one today to help you break through that dreaded, “unmotivating” wall:

  • The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing! (Feel free to share that one with faculty – just kidding…….or am I? J)
  • If you FAIL, never give up because F-A-I-L means “First Attempt in Learning.” END is not the end!  In fact, E-N-D means “Effort Never Dies.” If you get NO as an answer, remember N-O means “Next Opportunity.”
  • One run can change your day, many runs can change your life. (That is for the health nuts)
  • Life is the most difficult exam!  Many people fail because they copy others, not realizing that everyone has different questions on their paper.
  • Everybody is a genius!  But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.
  • The darkest hour still only has 60 minutes.
  • There are 13 minerals that are essential for human life and they can be found in beer…….stay healthy, my friends!
  • When I was a young man, I wanted to change the world.
    When I found I could not change the world, I tried to change my nation.
    When I found I could not change my nation, I tried to change my town.
    When I found I could not change my town, I tried to change my family.
    Now, as an old man, I realize the only thing I could change is myself.
    And suddenly I realize that if long ago I had changed myself, I could have made an impact on my family.
    My family and I could have made an impact on our town.
    Their impact could have changed the nation.

    And I could have indeed changed the world.
  • And my all-time favorite (short, sweet, and to the point):  If you always did what you’ve always done……you’ll always get what you’ve always got!

So, again, what motivates us to work in student affairs?  Who the hell knows?!?!? I would venture to say that answer changes daily for all of us.  Every day will not be sunshine in higher education or student affairs….but as long as we remember to bring our umbrella, the bad weather won’t be too bad either!  Right?

I will leave you with this………When I was working on my dissertation, I printed, laminated, and taped this poem to the top of my computer.  It meant so much……it is still there to this day!

When things go wrong, as they sometimes will;
When the road you’re trudging seems all uphill;
When the funds are low and the debts are high;
And you want to smile but you have to sigh.
When all is pressing you down a bit –
Rest if you must……but don’t you quit.
Success is failure turned inside out;
The silver tint on the clouds of doubt;
And you can never tell how close you are;
It may be near but it seems extremely far.
So stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit –
It’s when things go wrong that you must never quit.

John Greenleaf Whittier

Jordan O'Roark serves as the Director of Adminissions and Alumni Relations at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.  He is the Arkansas State Membership Cooridnator for NASPA IV-W.  Jordan can be reached at [email protected].  

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