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Developing Development

October 16, 2010

This week I had perhaps one of the greatest moments of conscious personal growth then I have experienced in quite some time.  Even more ironically, it had occurred weeks before on a cognitive level; but the ‘ah-ha feeling’ of development hit me like a rush that made me realize how much I have missed it.

The past few months I have been challenged by the formation and early development of a staff, understanding campus and department culture, keeping up with reading and discussions within the classroom, and maintaining (truthfully, developing) a social and ‘personal’ life in a new place.  But these areas haven’t been the hardest part of my transition.

When I got started in my graduate experience, I felt ‘stuck’ almost immediately.  All of a sudden I was making professional decisions, second guessing how they fit within my professional life and my personal values, and wondering ‘what the process’ should be exploring these ideas.  I quietly became impatient and frustrated with how I could be expected to create such standards with so little information.  Looking back, it just came down to being overwhelmed, and hyper-aware of the intentionality in my decisions, and intending to make sure that I didn’t overstep boundaries or set up trends that would effect me negatively later in my experience.

I expressed my concern to my supervisor, explaining that I felt as if to be effective as a professional, I needed to develop myself personally; reflecting on my experiences in and out of the classroom and synthesizing it within me to continue (or begin) growing as a professional.

That one on one was several weeks ago, and after some time to process the experience, we discussed how we might work through that process in our one on one time.  This week, we started to discuss progress in this area and ‘check-in.’

But taking the time on my own to reflect on my own position through my classwork, I realized I was at a natural part of the process of transition.  Accounting for my ‘futuristic’ sense in my personality, I wanted more to be happening to accelerate me through transition, skipping steps and instantly acclimating.  No, I didn’t have the tools yet; but walking me through every decision I made, telling me how I should act and who I should develop into as a professional is solely my responsibility.  I will have the support of other’s, checking in and helping me to reflect on my actions, helping me integrate my past experiences in moving forward, but I will make my own way.

It was an interesting feeling, developing the understanding of my supervisors’ role in my development while it was happening.  It’s making me reiterate that ‘Architect’ post and feeling even further; and it’s reaffirming my love for student affairs.

I loved the feeling of being challenged by advisors to work through my beliefs, their assertion that I could do more and better, and thrive under an environment of healthy goal-setting and constant pursuit of something more.  And it’s finally back.  Through my final years in my undergraduate experience there were significant changes in advising of my leadership positions, and many times this effected how I was reflecting on my leadership development.

Now, amongst a completely different environment, in an entirely different part of the country, with a self-assessment miles from where I began; I’m back to developing my competence, navigating and refining my identity even further, and continuing to grow my way through this new experience (notice the shameless integration of Chickering; I’m learning, so I’ll apply it when I notice so I can reinforce it).  While it’s been a while since I’ve had this kind of guidance through the process, I’m really looking forward to the road ahead and the challenge, breakthroughs, and ‘ah-ha’ moments to

 

The Digital Cohort

September 13, 2010

With the drastic expansion of the #SAchat community over the last several months, many professionals have found value in specific conversations targeted towards their functional area.  In doing so, they create new communities, new support systems, and allow for more refined conversations about topics at the core of their daily work.  In watching these communities grow, and finding value in many of them myself and I approached grad school, I was intrigued about passing comments about the creation of undergraduate chats related to student affairs.  While many of these comments were just that, as I watched the daily tweets of my fellow bright-eyed and bushy-tailed first years enter their first classrooms and crack open Komives, Evans, and the like for the first time, I wondered if this group might find value or community in a specialized group as so many professionals representing all segments of the their Division had created.

So the request went out, and thankfully folks like @DebTaub were quick to support it; and as eager as I was to explore its potential.  Turns out there is a growing network of graduate students discovering not only the value of Twitter and #SAchat as an opportunity for professional development, but as a support system.  Looking over what we have generated thus far in conversation over the new #SAgrad hashtag as well a GoogleDoc for brainstorming, it’s clear that beyond transitioning from their undergraduate experience, students in Student Affairs graduate programs are confronting a wide variety of questions and challenges to prepare them for the field.

The concept is simple. If you’re a grad student in a Student Affairs Master’s program (or invested in helping them develop), check out the chats and conversation on Twitter, and if you’re new, search for #SAGrad and put it on the end of your tweets.  We’re building a digital cohort across the US to learn, reflect, challenge, and discuss with.  It’s hard to say where we’ll end up, but I’m willing (and excited) to find out!

A Tourist Among Architects

August 28, 2010

More than once over the last few weeks I have found myself thinking ‘I have a lot to learn.’  It’s easy to shake this notion off with the assurance of being in a new place, learning a new culture, defining my professional style and attitude (all in building my professional reputation), but it feels a like turning a hobby into a career.  Truthfully, the only analogy to this undertaking of competencies and mastery is the transition from a Tourist to an Architect.

Tourists can tell you the facts; they can tell you where the building is located, they know how to get there, and maybe they can even tell you when it was built, who it was funded by, and the defining moments in it’s history.

But architects tell you what it’s built out of, the philosophy behind the floor plan, what the inspiration for the building was, and the references to the past at play in the design.

As I ‘acclimate’ to a new campus, position, and new professionals, I realize that my time as an undergrad prepared me as a great ‘tourist.’ I know my way around some of the basics, and I may even be able to talk a little bit about the experiences I have through ‘pictures,’ I’m realizing the depth of my ignorance.  Thankfully, I’m surrounded by ‘Architects’ ready and willing to patiently describe the importance of the frameworks behind the walls as I get distracted by the pictures on them.

It’s exciting.  I’m ready. I’m so ready.

Flexibility, not Bodybuilding: First Impressions of a ‘Big State’ Experience

August 19, 2010

I’ve roadtripped across the country with no A/C, visited my family, moved into my home for the next year, been trained on everything from bedbugs and mold to fire panels and emergencey protocol matrices, moved in a staff of 4 men and helped to prepare them and my building of nearly 300 for the arrival of thousands of students, families, and staff members for move-in; worn out, overwhelmed, and oddly engrained with a feeling of hesistant confidence. 

More importantly, I’m beginning to look around an office that was musty and foreign, and making it my own.  I’m looking at staff members whose names I initially struggled with, and calling them friends.  I’m training students who months ago and only a few hundred miles away, I would have called peers, and entrusted with their supervision and guidance. 

This comfortability with being flexible and adaptive to new situations is something that I’m learning more and more is important within my role as a professional.  Changes to old programs, developments of new programs, and quick decisions made to bring more efficiency, more development, more growth.  Bigger, faster, stronger. 

It seems like the more I learn about the structure of big state schools and how they function both day to day and in their overall development is less about huge undertakings, and more about refinement and intentional allocation of resources.  Flexibility, not bodybuilding. 

I’m looking forward (once again) to developing this understanding as my coursework and assistantship become more ‘predictable’ and (hopefully) balanced in the coming weeks, but for now, I’ll leave the impression to sink in, and some questions to part with:

Have you worked/attended both a private and state instiution?  What are the biggest differences you experienced?

Statement of Purpose: Beyond ‘About Me’

July 10, 2010

After getting an email from a friend at RWU interested in Student Affairs and working on developing Grad School applications, I realized that I while I’ve spoken a lot about the ‘process of graduate applications’ in Student Affairs: Farm League, I’ve never actually explained what my ‘Statement of Purpose’ was when I was entering Graduate School.  With the start of my experience only 4 weeks away, and a forum like this one to actually post it, I thought it would serve as a great reminder to me of how I got here.  I think every now and then I’ll need it, and posting I here means it’s easy for me to get at, and (hopefully) an interesting read for my audience, (whoever that may be) along with some insight on who I am and how I got here; beyond an ‘About Me’ tab. Thanks for reading!

Nearly four years ago, I was accepted into Roger Williams University’s Gabelli School of Business as an ambitious, focused, and energetic Marketing major from Rutland, Massachusetts. This spring, I will graduate as a Psychology major pursing a Master of Education degree in Student Affairs Administration in Higher Education, passionate and excited about leadership, now hailing from Grand Prairie, Texas. My personal transition from profits and bottom-lines to icebreakers and team-builders represents a shift in my life path, and parallels my individual development, credited to the facilitative process of student affairs professionals at RWU. Thus, my ultimate intent at Texas A&M University’s College of Education & Human Development is to serve that same purpose for future generations of students through my commitment to student development and leadership.

I entered Roger Williams University assuring my high school friends I would become President of my freshman class, a goal that perplexed everyone. I was never one to step into the spotlight outside of an occasional “open mic” night playing guitar at local coffee houses. In truth, I had never before held a leadership position. With the exception of track, I watched television at my house, did homework, and had very little intrinsic motivation throughout my high school years. There was, however, an ardent desire existing within me that I could, and wanted to, do more. Consequently, the realization that my high school experience was underutilized became my primary motivation for my involvement at RWU. I found a Vice President running-mate during Freshman Orientation, immediately declared candidacy, and was elected to the position, gaining confidence and an increasing system of support along the way from both peers and staff members.

Through my involvement within the corresponding organization, the Inter-Class Council, and my acceptance to SOAR, a leadership program based on the Social Change Model of Leadership Development, I found that my love of leadership and interest in student development increased in accordance with my own involvement. In fact, it is the experiences from these first sessions that continue to ring true throughout my engagement on campus. I saw shy students become impassioned in lively discussion during a “values auction,” bidding their entire “fortune” on true love. I speak about this occurrence regularly with both individuals, as they are now two of my closest friends. More importantly, I realized through activities like these that a person’s identity is engrained deeper than their gender, the color of their skin, the way they live their life or the words they say. I realized that each person, adapting to their own unique experiences and personality, becomes who they are from their own self-efficacy.

As I continued to develop and shape my own sense of self within my experiences and leadership positions on campus, my focused shifted to the professionals who facilitated those discussions. I watched professionals challenge students to enrich the dialogues acquired through their experiences with alternative ideas, and celebrate the growth of their understanding, both inside and outside of a classroom setting. I saw the personal investment these individuals embodied through dedication of long days and full weekends, and the impact of this investment in their students. I realized that while I grew beyond so many of my own personal boundaries, I was never alone, and it was in moments of both crisis and excitement that many of these professionals were my first phone call.

From that moment on, I developed a pure interest in the transformational nature of student affairs. I took on additional leadership roles so that I might work more closely with these

individuals, and understand the perspective from which they lead their lives. I sought to develop professionally alongside them through conferences and committees, gaining their respect and enduring rapport. I started to work with my peers, challenging them in the same way I had been, building goals and visions within personal relationships as well as professional ones.

Cultivating the interest that began in my sophomore year, I now seek to prepare for a prosperous career in student affairs. Pursuing a degree from Texas A&M University would allow me to increase my understanding of the development of students using theoretical frameworks and integrate related research into practice within the discipline. In a field with such a comprehensive nature, I look forward to the application of this knowledge in the pursuit of a holistic understanding of contemporary college students, and the preparation of leaders of tomorrow who are morally self-aware and scholars of the world.

Throughout my search for graduate school, I reflected on what aspects of a program would best suit my career goals. Paramount to my success is a program whose values, faculty, and institutional goals are both deeply engrained in tradition, but revolutionary in their contemporary practices. In this regard, I look forward to the opportunity to study best practices of the discipline with Dr. Kelly Peck Parrott and Dr. Bryan Cole, as well as identity and student development with Dr. Fred Bonner. Specifically, the program’s focus on research and application in the field in relation to moral and social development within students in a variety of leadership roles, and the application of this research practically in the field is of particular appeal. The rich tradition, structure of the program, and research interests of the faculty of Texas A&M are both exciting and invigorating in my continued interest and aspirations towards the field of Student Affairs.

Ultimately, my goal and intent is to achieve a balance between student contact and development of the field as a whole as a Dean of Students, or Vice President of Student Affairs. The experience and understanding that I have acquired at Roger Williams University has sparked a life-long interest in a field about which I am passionate and dedicated. I am confident that the opportunity to study at Texas A&M University would allow me to further develop these goals, and I look forward to opportunity to collaborate with such influential members of the discipline in a department that is well known for its success. Thank you for your consideration.

Best Regards,

Brian LeDuc

More to Come, Soon!

June 4, 2010

Once I get started at my Assistanstship in Residence Life, and my Student Affairs Administration Masters program in the fall, this is where you will be able to find out more information about my experiences!