After 4 1/2 years the time has come for me to leave my position as the Director for the Leadership Experience and Programs (LEAP) Office at Whittier College. I will always cherish my time as a Poet. I grew professionally in this position and simultaneously survived some major personal challenges to get to where I am now.
Working at Whittier College offered a lot of firsts for me. Though I had worked in student activities as a graduate student this was my first full-time position in this functional area after 6 years working in Residential Life. It was my first time being a director, advising senate, overseeing media and publications, Greek Life, commuter students, calendaring and reservations, etc. In addition I joined the staff in the middle of the school year and in the midst of some personnel transition. I started with an interim assistant director with no student affairs or higher education background.
I overcame many obstacles and growing pains to achieve many professional successes. Below are a few of the largest accomplishments:
1. Developing the Associated Students of Whittier College (ASWC) organization to where the student body respects the senators and look to them to represent them to the senior staff; to where they are transparent in reporting and regularly presenting to the student body their plans and accomplishments; to where they are passing bills and amendments that are making local news.
2. Led the LEAP Office in being the first public school to host the Southern California Student Organization Summit with the largest attendance of 14 institutions represented by 40 participants.
3. Introduced the campus to the OrgSync platform where now over 80 (50% increase from when I arrived 4 years ago) student organizations have control over what information about their clubs are shared with the community. This summer (2016) the institution was given an honorable mention at the OrgSync user conference for institution of the year.
During my time in Whittier, CA I also grew personally though few knew what I was going through. I arrived to Whittier having done all the things the experts tell you not to do while in a doctoral program; don’t move, don’t change jobs, don’t make big relationship changes yet I persevered. Below are a few of the barriers I overcame:
1. I relocated from Northern California after having giving up the rights to my house and being in between temporary living arrangements for months. After a year in Southern California though I found a place to call my “woman cave” and I began to settle in.
2. I arrived having finished my doctoral course work but still having my dissertation research to complete which required that all my time off was devoted to travel to Interview, transcribing of interviews, and writing/editing. As fate would have it the content of my dissertation research, the experiences and strategies for success of Black women Senior Student Affairs Officers (SSAOs) at predominantly White institutions (PWIs), caused some personal distress as I re-lived the negative experiences of my participants and struggled to find the words to conclude my study. It took a year longer than anticipated but I did complete my dissertation and graduated in 2014 adding the title of Dr. to my name.
3. After 3-years of separation, my divorce was finalized and after a lot of reflection and soul searching I decided to change my last name back. This was met with unexpected challenges with my identity, identification, and in the reactions of my colleagues.
Through the professional and personal milestones experienced during my time as a Whittier Poet, I reinforced my values and learned some lessons that I intend to carry with me forever. Below are a few:
- Treat people with respect no matter their status or station
- Do what is right not what is easy
- Invest in the professional development of others
- Be careful to give ones time and energy to those who appreciate and respect it
- Collaboration, support of the ideas of others, and the cross-pollination of ideas help the entire institution though it is an investment
- Sometimes you need to take your own advise
- Self care is critical and ultimately helps everyone
- For a strong and healthy foundation build in systems of checks, balances, assessment, and transparency
- Make decisions that are best for the institution and based on position/role rather than the current person(s) occupying the post
- Honor and give deference to the past yet continue to build on those legacies in the present with innovation
- Always aspire to leave an organization better than you found it
- Delegation is a necessary skill
- Long-term planning and investments do pay off
- Don’t stay somewhere you are not wanted / appreciated
- Recognize the difference between fair and equitable and respond justly
- The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior
- When people show you who they are believe them ~Maya Angelou
I am thankful for the time and opportunities that have prepared me for the next chapter in my career – a large public school in a new state.
***Photo is a red brick found at Whittier College on Painter Ave. North of the Campus Center where the LEAP Office is located. The brick was purchased to honor the 2014 dissertation research of Dr. Shauna T. Sobers entitled “Can I Get a Witness: The resilience of four Black women senior student affairs administrators at predominantly White institutions” and the village that helped her get there affectionately named #TeamShauna.