It’s been quite some time – in fact, almost a year – since we’ve last posted on our blog. It’s about time we introduce you to another fantastic member of our community, Rob Harrington.
Tell us a bit about your background and why you are interested in student affairs work.
I am a second year graduate student in the Administration of Higher Education program. My interest in Student Affairs started as a Resident Assistant at Bridgewater State University in 2009. Since then, I have had two professional roles in Residence Life and am looking to expand my experience. I decided to pursue this field when I realized it was an option my junior year of college. The involvement I had during my undergraduate experience helped me become the person I am today. In a way, I see this career as a sort of “giving back” to the field that helped me open up.
What have some of your favorite courses been so far in the program and how have they impacted your work?
Diversity, Legal Issues, and Research were all very interesting and incredibly relevant to the work I am doing now. As multiculturally sound as we all may believe we are, there is literally a never-ending stream of experience we can obtain through interacting with diverse populations. Taking the Diversity course really motivated me to understand the difficult issues that we all can face, especially in a college setting. Understanding these issues, even in a general sense, can help you navigate interactions and conversations that you were previously unprepared for. Legal Issues play a role in the day to day operations of our field. Knowing the limits and requirements of the job functions I serve helps me to ensure I am doing my job correctly and efficiently. Finally, research is something I can see myself doing in the future. Although a literature review is quite the project, it got me interested in the topic I chose and instilled in me a desire to push the current research further. Knowing how to do that at this stage is very valuable and I feel sets me apart from others.
Rumor has it you’ve recently started a full time job in Residence Life! How did you navigate your first few weeks on a new campus, and how did the program prepare you for your new position?
It’s true! Although I am about cross the 6 month point (I can’t believe it!), I am still one of the newest members of the Lasell College community. As I like to say, observation is one of the most important things a new employee can do. Coming into the position in mid-April, there was not a lot of time for training. Instead, I adapted my previous experiences into the role. Relying on coworkers was another thing that helped me through into the summer. Sometimes it can be hard to repeatedly ask questions, but you must remember that you are the “new guy (or girl)”, and that you are not expected to know everything. Take advantage of this during your first few months, because it won’t look as good if you wait to ask that question a year down the road. Suffolk’s program gave me tools I did not have in my first Residence Life role after college. I had the knowledge of theory, an understanding of important legal and social issues, and a more concrete plan as to where I wanted to end up in the field. I felt much more confident and honestly, being able to discuss and explore my issues with classmates has been very beneficial. It was classmates who encouraged me to apply for the position in the first place!
What advice would you give to prospective, incoming, and new students about keeping a balance between work, school, and personal life?
Maintaining the balance is something that I am still working on myself and is incredibly difficult to pull off. It has become most difficult this semester with a full-time job, a practicum, classes, and of course being on-call. The most essential piece to balancing it all is being up front with your supervisors so that no one is surprised when you need to suddenly cancel or change something on your schedule. With their support, I can piece my schedule together while satisfying all my job needs. Keeping open communication with my coworkers allows me to go to class even on weeks that I’m on call. Creating and maintaining schedules that you routinely follow will help you structure your semester. For me, technology is paramount here. Reminders and appointments help me to remember events when my brain is too busy being focused on something else. Finally, use your free time effectively! Have fun in whatever way works best for you. Start your homework early on in the week so you can have the weekends to yourself, or saved for friends!
Any additional thoughts or words of advice?
I would just say that in Student Affairs and Higher Education, the unexpected becomes the expected. Being able to adapt and train your mind to switch focus at the drop of a pin is very important. When so many offices are interacting with each other on a daily basis in a microcosm like a university, a professional needs to retain a good deal of knowledge in their mind and be able to use it effectively on a day to day basis. So, be prepared. But be prepared to be unprepared. Don’t think of this as a negative thing, either! Every day is a mental exercise. It will help you become an expert very quickly.
Contact Rob (email@example.com) for any questions or comments regarding his segment!