Starting off 2013 Get To Know segments with a bang! This month we speak with a fairly new face to the field, Tikola Russell, who always knew student conduct was her niche and strives to develop and grow each day.
Tikola, thanks for letting us hear a little bit about yourself! Let’s get started – what do you do now, and what lead you to this position?
I am currently the Coordinator for the Office of Student Conduct at Bridgewater State University. Call me weird, but I really enjoy student conduct work! While in undergrad, I was drawn to it so when I became a GA at Suffolk University in the Residence Life Office, I was very excited that my focus would be on student conduct. The passion really grew from my experience at Suffolk. From there, I went on to become an RD at Stonehill College where I worked for two years before coming here to BSU. I would say that my experience with student conduct at Stonehill really opened my eyes to the great relationships that can come from meeting with students that have been documented. The ability to make an impact and make a student feel comfortable when they are absolutely afraid of what might happen I believe is a skill and one that I am proud of. While at Stonehill, I was taught that “We have good students that make bad decisions”. I took that and ran with it. It brought me a great sense of accomplishment to let students know that they are not defined by their bad decisions, but truly by who they are. That allowed me to challenge students through sanctioning and some mentoring so that they were able to positively contribute and give back to the greater campus community. After my two years at Stonehill, I saw a job posting for my current position, I applied and here I am today continuing the great work that I did at Stonehill!
That’s so great! Congratulations on your newest venture! It sounds like you definitely have encompassed some of your graduate courses into your approach – perhaps Student Development or Legal Aspects. What course do you think best prepared you for your career?
Obviously, I will have to say that the Legal Aspects of Higher Education course taught me a lot and helps me in my current position. With student conduct, you have to be very good at keeping track of all of your steps, following laws and regulations, reviewing policies and procedures often and always using them when you meet with students for disciplinary hearings. You have to be thorough and clear in your work and for me, it is extremely important to be fair and always have a rationale behind every decision that is made regarding a student’s case.
As a fairly new professional, what do you do to provide yourself with growth and development – aside from just learning your own job (quite a task in itself!)?
This is something that I have been slowly getting better at. While the money has not always been there for me to attend conferences, I do try to attend workshops and drive-ins when they are offered in the area. I also do a lot of reading. I enjoy it casually and while reading about student conduct issues or other higher ed related issues is not the most exciting thing in the world, that is how I learn and I find it very useful. Lastly, I learn from others in the field. If I have a question or need help, I will ask myself who in my past will be able to assist me with this and provide me with resources and tools that I can use to better the practices in the office and the way that I go about serving students.
What advice do you have for those looking for a graduate program in student affairs or higher education administration?
I would say that you need to find a program that fits you. That can mean a number of things, but for me, I think it is important to find a program that fits into your current lifestyle and your position in the field. I would also advise that the program you choose fits into your plans financially and always search for assistantships that will help with the cost and scholarships. Sometimes it is hard to find the perfect fit for your exact situation, but in the end, you should choose a program that will help you learn and grow as a professional and you should make sure that you are getting the quality of education that you are paying for.
Thank you for all of your insight! We wish you the best of luck with everything. Please keep the rest of our Suffolk community posted with any updates! Last but not least, what do you do outside of work!?
When I am not at work you can catch me spending time with family. They mean a lot to me so every chance I can I like to be with them. If I am not with my family, I am usually out with my other half or hanging with my friends. I enjoy going out to eat and heading to the movies or getting a few drinks with friends every now and then, but I am very much an introvert and I enjoy one on one quality time with those that I love. I live a pretty simple life, and that for me is all I need!
Contact Tikola (firstname.lastname@example.org) for any questions or comments regarding her education or career path!