3 Important Ways I’ve Grown in Inclusive Excellence

I’m writing today to share my experience working in a graduate assistantship (or GA) at Slippery Rock University’s Office for Inclusive Excellence (OIE). My goal is to reflect on what I’ve learned in the past year but to also shine light on the experiences of working in a multiculturalism-based GA. If you’re considering a GA in this functional area or would like to learn more, keep reading!

Prior to this GA, my experiences with underrepresented student populations included volunteering for two summers with the Hispanic Scholarship Fund’s Youth Leadership Institute and during the last two years of my undergrad as a model and then executive board member for SPIRIT Fashion Show, a show formed out of the black student advocacy organization at Carnegie Mellon University. Not to mention that I identify as Mexican-American and grew up in South Texas!

When I applied to Slippery Rock’s program and searched through their webpage of available assistantships, this one was my top choice early on. After eight different interviews and three offers in my hand by Spring Break, I chose this graduate assistantship because I knew I had so much more to learn.


A post-meeting selfie with the organization I advise, SRU Student Organization of Latinos (SOL)

At Slippery Rock, the OIE develops programming year-round to address issues of social justice and inclusion on campus, oversees all multicultural student organizations, and hosts a high school to college transition program called the Jump Start. I mainly work with students in Jump Start, which serves first-year and transfer students who elect to move to campus a week early for an orientation on campus resources and who are matched with peer mentors who meet with them once a week to support their academic, social, and personal transition to our university. Here are the three main lessons I learned in my first year in my role:

The importance of having a space. I had not understood the importance of a safe space, a space where students from historically marginalized backgrounds can congregate and relax, until my assistantship at SRU. Not because I couldn’t imagine how a space like this could be beneficial, but because I never had been exposed to and active in one — and I honestly never needed to be. But seeing the Student Development Suite (where the OIE is housed) in such a prominent part of campus is so impactful. It makes a statement. It’s important that these spaces are accessible and noticed while still protected by professionals looking out for the cultural, social, and mental well-being of our students who need and desire the space.

How to make a good first impression. As a GA, I supervise 15 students individually on a bi-weekly basis, a pretty different supervision experience than I had before. My goal for our initial meeting was try to set myself up as someone who may not understand an experience or an identity first-hand, but could empathize and provide a supportive space. During the first one-on-one of the year, I asked each mentor, toward the end of the conversation, if there was anything that they thought I should know that would be helpful for our relationship. The responses ranged from uncertainty about counseling and mental illness to preferred method of contact and “I’m just a really chill person.” This one question opened many doors and truly helped me connect with students, allowing me to better remember their individual needs and preferences.

Getting deep and learning about the lived experience of students. In addition to my daily interaction, supervision, and advising, I had the opportunity to interview a few students to learn more about their personal and cultural backgrounds. Through my Environments course, I was encouraged to a create a semi-structured interview to better understand a specific student subculture’s perception of their learning on campus and create programming ideas. In this blog, I detailed what I learned from three African-American students at a predominately white institution. Ignoring the focus on the university environment, I learned a lot about each individual students’ background, how they felt they fit within overall campus culture and black campus culture, and again, the importance of the Student Development Suite as a space to be supported as themselves. I enjoyed this deep one-on-one experience, which brought me to developing a new philosophy: I work to learn without demanding an education from my students and I am dedicated to supporting them.

My Next and Final Year

This year I’m coming into my second year with more of an understanding of the various experiences and identities that interact within our campus community as well as the different goals our mentors and first-year students want to get out of the Jump Start program. I’ve built great mentoring relationships and friendships on campus that I’m excited to continue as August soon approaches. These relationships are the best part of my work and I’m excited to come in and meet this year’s incoming first-year class. Thank you for joining me and let me know what else I can share!

Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash 📸

Student Affairs Twitter Resource Guide

Author note: Hello all, this is a repost of a blog that I wrote for the NASPA New Professionals and Graduate Students Knowledge Community. The original posting can be found here: https://www.naspa.org/constituent-groups/posts/student-affairs-twitter-resource-guide

Personally, engaging via Twitter has brought me many opportunities that I may not have found elsewhere, especially through NASPA’s Knowledge Communities. For example, I found the application for the NASPA Region II Board where I now serve as their Director of Recruitment. These national and often association-based opportunities don’t often enter our professors inboxes for mass email forwarding, so it’s important to open oneself to these opportunities via newsletters, association membership emails, and yet again, social media. Additionally, Twitter’s format is perfect for sharing and showcasing the best of an organization and the resources they have to offer so why not tap into those?

I always suggest that #SAgrad folks build their online presence the summer before or during their first semester of graduate studies. Having this extra time while grad work is lessened allows one focus on social media upkeep like creating and updating one’s LinkedIn and verifying their privacy settings on Facebook. However, Twitter has proven to serve as a great branding and learning tool for those in this profession and should be explored as another social media option.

What and Why?

Here are some common reasons for making a Twitter account and some of the things you can do with it:

  • Build and extend your personal and professional brand
  • Stay updated with relevant higher ed news as it’s happening
  • Learn about volunteer and job opportunities in the field
  • Find and share opportunities and/or successes with your networks
  • Connect with like-minded colleagues from campuses across the nation & world
  • Research graduate programs and gain insight into campus cultures
  • Find mentors from all professional levels who can advise on career moves
  • Find solidarity with professionals that have similar identities or interests
  • Engage in spaces to listen and learn from others that are different than oneself

I’ve been lucky and strategic enough to take advantage of all of these benefits as I’ve become more serious about my Twitter game. Here are some examples of tweets that showcase many of these benefits listed above:

A tweet from NEACHO that states "We're going to get started with our NEACHUO Chat on FLSA in ResLife, please introduce yourself with your title and institution. #NEACUHO" posted on September, 28th 2016.

A tweet by Mike Lynch that states "#ResLife friends: Do you offer identity-based housing options on your campus? I'd love to connect & chat! #SAchat #SApro #ACUHOI #NEACUHO" posted on October 4th, 2016.

A tweet by Stacy Oliver Sikorski which states "#ACUHOI: I'm writing an article on break housing policies and practices. Willing to chat? Let me know. #reslife #sachat" posted on December 28th, 2015.

A tweet from the Women in Student Affairs Knowledge Community which states "Any #wisakc women looking for a new role in social justice and inclusion? Check this out! #careersearching" It points to a tweet below that features a role at Michigan State University.

A tweet by Sammie Walker that states "Hoping to start a #blog soon! Any #SAchat or #SAgrad/#SApro folks have tips to share or know resources/tools I should look into? Thanks!" posted on January 9th, 2017.

(Tweets from individual accounts are posted with permission)

I’ve heard some ask why they should embark on this online branding endeavor as the time it may take may not yield what they hope to get out of it. First off, I think it’s important for any person or company who’s hoping to use a social network to understand why they’re using it and how it is used. All social networks are spoken in different languages so my advice is to first observe others using it, which means following friends, peers, and influencers in the field for exposure to this ‘language.’ Start tweeting, using hashtags and emojis incorrectly at first, but you’ll soon get the hang of it!

Getting Started

Build your profile! Be intentional with your profile picture, cover photo and username. Use high quality photos and be sure that username will be one that you use throughout the rest of your social media. Your bio should highlight a mission statement and/or your memberships like where you attend university, your GA, your interests, etc. Other editable spaces are your location, external link, and birthday (which you probably shouldn’t add because of privacy reasons).

Photo of the homepage of a newly created Twitter account
A blank Twitter profile circa 2016

Public vs. Private Account

Which should you have? I think it’s reasonable to have a private account until you feel comfortable with your Twitter presence. You will need to have a public account to engage with the larger community, especially via Twitter chats which I’ll speak to soon. I’ve seen some pros keep their account mainly private and only public for chats but I think overall, you want to work toward having a public profile so that it can be the most effective branding tool.

Tips and Tricks

  • Use the platform regularly! Twitter is a platform where it’s normal and acceptable to post more than once a day. When getting started, it’s important to post and reply at least 3x a week but you’ll want to work to at least once a day, which gets easier as you’re more comfortable and have more people to chat with on the site.
  • Don’t connect your Tweets to Facebook and Instagram! As I mentioned, you can definitely tweet more than once a day but if you connect your Twitter to Facebook, you’re most likely going to be spamming your friend’s feeds. As for Instagram, if you try to add an Instagram post to Twitter, it’ll only show up as a link. If you want to add a picture to Twitter, it’s best to add it directly to that app or use a 3rd party app like https://ifttt.com/ which lets you embed your photo.
  • RTs vs Quoted RTs vs Replying: Which one do I do? Retweeting means sharing a post from another page to yours. Quoting a tweet is a choice you can make while retweeting, which allows you to add a comment over the tweet. Replying is simply adding to the thread of the original post.
  • What if I already have a Twitter but I don’t use it? There are a couple of choices you can make: 1) You can delete your old Twitter and start fresh or 2) Change your settings/username, delete old posts, and still use this account. I’ve seen both be done! I’ve even seen folks who choose to have a private friends-only Twitter and a public professional Twitter. Do what feels right for you!
  • Rethink following who Twitter suggests. Twitter will at first try to have you follow sponsored brands and celebrities that you may not care too much about. I suggest (especially if you’re making a Student Affairs Twitter) you follow colleagues, peers, higher ed institutions, and associations so that suggestions are more related to your interests!
  • Don’t forget – 140 characters or bust! Plain and simple, don’t forget that your character count is small. If making a larger statement, you can reply to your own tweets and create a thread that can be read through.

Who Should I Follow?

Search for functional area specific associations such as acuho-i, NACE, NODA. These associations will be posting chats, conference information, and other ways to get involved in the field.

Common Issues

  • Importance of maintaining professionalism. As you tweet, do not forget that you not only represent yourself but the organizations and institutions that you are a part of as well. If you’re not sure that a tweet will be handled well, it’s best not to tweet it out. On any social media platform, it’s important to balance authenticity with professional and work-appropriate language. Again, I suggest checking out the pages of colleagues and higher ed folk that you admire and are similar to you to see how they get their message across.
  • Useful disclaimers. Many pros have one of these lines in their bio to mitigate issues with conflated personal opinion and institutional values.
    • Tweets are mine.
    • Retweets ≠ endorsements.
    • Views/Tweets/Opinions are my own.
  • Comfort with being followed/following students. Once you’re out there on social media, students usually will be able to find you. This question is one of personal choice, whether you feel comfortable with students following you especially since you cannot control that with a public account. This would be a great time to have a conversation with the students you work with to create boundaries. However, many pros make a Twitter account so they CAN interact with students so keep that in mind as well as you develop your Twitter game plan.

The word #hashtag in blue cursive

Interacting with Others 

When engaging with the community, it’s wise to use specific hashtags to reach the audience that you’re interested in. Here is a super non-exhaustive list of hashtags!

  • #reslife – a space for Residence Life pros and aspiring pros to discuss this functional area
  • #SAfit – a hashtag for connecting with #SApros looking to get fit and promote all kinds of wellness
  • #SAlatinx – a hashtag for Latin@/x grads and professionals
  • #BlkSAP – a hashtag for connecting with Black grads and professionals
  • #NASPA17 & #ACPA17 – most associations have a specific hashtag for their annual and regional conferences. Find these out to get in the conversation even if you’re not on-site!
  • #SAsearch – a space for those on the job search to gain tips, ask questions, and celebrate successes!
  • #SAassess – a space for assessment pros to talk about their role and promote this essential need in our field
  • and so many more! (http://www.higheredcareercoach.com/twitter-chats/)

Student Affairs Chats

Three steps for engaging in a Twitter chat, the mini chart states "STEP 1: Follow the SAC Twitter Account for official updates and questions. STEP 2: Search "#SAChat" on Twitter either during the official chats, or anytime throughout the week. STEP 3: Add "#SAChat" anywhere in your tweet to be included in the conversation. To share an answer to a specific question, use A1, A2, A3, etc in front of your tweet."Engaging in weekly or monthly chats is a great way to connect with the general #SAPro community and interest areas such as professional level and functional area. To the right are instructions on how to engage with #SAChat but these can be generalized to almost all chats!

  • #SAChat – generalist Student Affairs chat hosted on Thursdays at 1PM and 7PM EST
  • #SAgrad – a space for Student Affairs grads to discuss their perspectives, Sundays at 8PM EST
  • #SJEchat – Social Justice Education & conversations that matter, weekly social justice chats
  • #MSIchat – Penn Center for Minority Serving Institutions, connecting and empowering MSIs
  • #ASCAchat – the Association for Student Conduct Administration chats, to share #stuconduct knowledge one tweet at a time
  • #FAchat – Financial Aid chats, second Tuesday of every month at 12 PM CST
  • #AcAdv – Academic Advising chats, every other Tuesday at 12 PM CST
  • There are many more representing almost all functional areas and interests! (Many of the more recent chats can be found here: https://www.insidehighered.com/twitter_directory)


Twitter is a huge asset for engaging with others and promoting one’s brand, especially within Student Affairs. As a field that loves to build community within residence halls, orientation programming, student activities, and within whole institutions, I’m not surprised that the field has worked to create online spaces for professionals and graduate students to find similar communities. I hope that these tips have been helpful and I hope to see you tweeting soon!

Do you have other tips for Twitter beginners? Have more recommendations on chats, hashtags, or tips for a Student Affairs Twitter? Feel free to share in a comment!

Header photo by Ravi Sharma on Unsplash 📸

1st Year Grad Recap & Summer 2017 Goals

Hello all! If you’re taking some time to read this blog, you may be interested in hearing more about my life after undergrad. This May, I finished up my first year of graduate studies. I am currently at Slippery Rock University in their Master of Arts program in Student Affairs in Higher Education. I didn’t truly know what the field was until the October before I applied yet I feel that I better understand myself and my interests through the coursework and via dialogue with my cohort mates and faculty.

Here a few of the great things I’ve gotten to do while in my program:

  • I got involved! In things like:
    • The NASPA Graduate Associate Program, coordinating programs for my cohort and interning at the #NASPA17 Annual Conference in San Antonio, TX.
    • The Student Affairs Graduate Association (SAGA), first as a member and then elected as President!
    • I joined the SRU Student Government Association Social Justice Committee.
  • I presented at two regional conferences teaching about how to get into graduate school and how to connect with student affairs professionals via Twitter.
  • I set up this website and I’ve started writing blogs such as In Defense of Career Services and Student Affairs Twitter Resource Guide.
  • I’ve maintained a 4.0 GPA these two semesters and have discovered an interest in qualitative research, which I’ll hopefully be more involved with this upcoming year.

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It hasn’t all been easy though. I’ve found this year to be one where I’ve had a harder time balancing my school, work, and home life. My 40 minute to-and-from commute has been at times exhausting but I hope to push through this one more year and finally get into listening to audio books and podcasts. If you have suggestions, let me know!

This summer, I am interning in Washington, D.C. at one of the student affairs generalist associations, NASPA – Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education. There I will gain an in-depth experience in association, project, and conference management and be able to continue growing my higher education network. In addition to my internship, I’m using this summer to work on a couple of goals that are harder to attend to during the school year.

Here are three goals that I hope to achieve this summer:

  1. To create a more specific list of professional development goals for my time at NASPA Headquarters, such as coordinating an assessment and connecting with the Student Career Development Knowledge Community.
  2. I want to commit myself to writing a blog a month and include insights regarding my NASPA internship experience. I’ve signed up to write soon for Student Affairs First Years so look out for that!
  3. I will focus energy into enjoying my time in DC and making the most of my summer away from the Pittsburgh area by exploring the city and touring the numerous universities in our capitol.

Thank you all for checking up on me and if you’re interested in hearing more, feel free to visit my contact page!

Header photo by Jing Xi Lau on Unsplash 📸

10 Programming Ideas for Working with African-American / Black Students

These recommendations are in part based on research conducted to derive best practices for African-American students on college campuses, particularly those who attend Predominately White Institutions (PWIs).  Additionally, a few of these recommendations are informed by hour-long interviews with a three currently enrolled Slippery Rock University students who identify as African-American and/or Black.

1. Hairology: The Black Hair Business – Based on both a recent event hosted by the Slippery Rock University Women’s Center and based on the concerns one of my interviewees, this one event can be developed to serves both the African-American community and educate students from other cultures about Black hair.  The event hosted below promoted a couple of Black-owned businesses in the Western Pennsylvania area, outreaching to the community to bring hair care tips and share business acumen and entrepreneurial experience with interested students.  This kind of event helps normalize Black hair, recognizes the buying power of Black women (a population often ignored by mainstream businesses), as well as fosters campus partnerships.

Poster for "Hairology: the Black hair business" which includes photos of Black women in various hairstyles including guest Mariah Woodard, own of MilleniCollection

2. Microaggressions Trainings and Workshops – One type of stressor that students of color, especially Black students, experience that their White classmates don’t are racial stressors.  Microaggressions, a term that encompasses indirect racial invalidation and discrimination, includes jokes based on race and comments that undermine a minoritized student’s success such as “You did well for a ___________.” In addition to the common stresses of attending college (financial, interpersonal, academic, etc.), the added pressure of racial stressors can hurt a student’s self-concept and make them question their ability and their reasons to stay in college. These trainings, if implemented, should be directed toward all community members, perhaps in sessions tailored specifically for faculty, students, staff, etc.

3. Diversity Advisors – Based on an idea from another interview with a Slippery Rock student and information from Penn State, one institutional change that could be that underrepresented students have a Diversity Advisor in addition to their traditional Academic Advisor.  The student I chatted with liked this idea since it brought another aspect of inherent support at the institution. These Advisors can work to help students feel included on campus and provide them the tools they need if bias incidents occur.

4. Alternative Black History –  One interviewee of mine as well as William B. Harvey, former Vice President and Director of the Center for Advancement of Racial and Ethnic Equity at the American Council on Education, both recognized the inequality of the American education system in not educating students about non-White history.  They both suggested universities create programming to educate to all about Black History outside of the ‘designated’ month of February to encourage learning of this history throughout the year.  This can be done as programs hosted by a student organization or done more formally through the implementation of this knowledge within first-year seminars.

5. Extensive Transition, Mentoring, and Follow Through – Both Ohio State and Texas Tech implemented extensive transition programming and resources to their Black student populations starting in the early 2000’s and have seen dramatic improvements in these student’s graduation rates. These programs include scholarships, mentorship (from peers and community members), summer bridge programs, and dialogues about race on campus. As a current Graduate Assistant in the Office for Inclusive Excellence at Slippery Rock, I believe our Jump Start Transition Program can be improved with the implementation of campus community members serving as mentors as well.

Photos of 100+ college students in the SRU Jump Start program. Birds eye view of students smiling in white t-shirts.
SRU Jump Start Transition Program 2016-2017

6. Programming for African-American Men – According to Robert Littleton’s 2003 research article about Minorities in Minorities, he reveals that African-American students have the greatest gender divide in graduation rates, 38% African-American men vs 62% African-American women in the early 2000s.  He suggests that there be programming and initiatives such as specific student organizations and mentorship programs for this population of student, in order to promote not only the rate of graduation but their overall undergraduate experience of African-American men. One student I interviewed is a part of one such an organization on Slippery Rock’s campus and believes that it has benefited his growth tremendously as well as his knowledge of Black history and how he incorporates this into his identity.

7. What’s in a name? Labels of Identity – One theme that emerged from the three interviews I conducted was the idea of identity and what my students preferred being called. I distinctly remember one student saying that she preferred being called African-American over being called Black, but not by much. To her, both identifiers contained negative connotations especially the word Black as it is commonly associated with “darkness and mischief.” I can imagine an event about identity as a discussion, students talking about the merits and disadvantages of certain labels while coming to speak to their authentic identities.

8. Hashtag Campaign – Another idea from one of my interviews was to create an awareness of Black history and achievements via a social media hashtag. This specific hashtag (institution-specific or otherwise) can be used to promote Black culture and champion awareness regarding differences this population makes across the world and on the campus, a way for people to see that “Black people are out here helping.” Campus social media channels can partner with departments or student organizations that create this content and share it out throughout the year, not just in February. For example, SRU’s KINGS Org. created the hashtag #Black87 in response to Black History Month’s repeat of the same 13% of Black history each February. You can read more information about #Black87 from this piece by the Slippery Rock University newspaper, the Rocket.

9. Multicultural Graduations – These graduations, which are more of a recent phenomenon, celebrate the successes of students of color on an achievement that they often face more barriers in receiving compared to the majority population. These ceremonies are times to bring family, friends, and mentors together to send-off their students as well as a time for non-graduating to imagine themselves up on the stage. My suggestion is to involve non-graduating students in the planning process so that they feel closely tied to this celebration and the meaning that it holds for all attendees and the university community.

Photo of kente, NPHC Greek, and nationality stoles with graduation certificates upon a black clothed table.
Office for Inclusive Excellence (OIE) Multicultural Graduation Celebration 2013

10. Anti-Blackness in Non-Black Spaces – Within the interviews I hosted, most of the rhetoric regarding non-Black people focused on White people, how they didn’t often attend events hosted by multicultural organizations and what it’s like being African-American at a university that is predominately White. I would love to see programming from non-Black multicultural organizations regarding their communities and anti-Blackness that can often abound. This work is work that should be undertaken from all non-Black students, in order to truly be allies to the Black community.

Have you conducted any of this programming on your campus? What other recommendations do you have for working with and educating others about the African-American subculture on American campuses? Comment below with your thoughts and ideas!

This post was created as an assignment for the Spring 2017 section of ‘Higher Education Environments, Cultures, Students’ taught by Dr. Stacy A. Jacob at Slippery Rock University. She can be contacted via email at stacy.jacob@sru.edu or via Twitter @stacyajacob.

Photo by Suad Kamardeen on Unsplash 📸



In Defense of Career Services

Author note: Hello all, this is a repost of a blog that I wrote for the NASPA Graduate Associate Program (GAP). The original posting can be found here: https://www.naspa.org/constituent-groups/posts/in-defense-of-career-services

During my Slippery Rock University interview day in January 2016, I chatted with future cohort members about what experiences brought them into Student Affairs. After some informal polling, it seemed like residence life and orientation were the strongest pulls toward the field. These functional areas make sense as all campuses host Resident/Community Assistants and Orientation Peer Leaders, yet not all hire undergraduate career advisors. Though many career centers employ undergrads, not all host active, peer-driven career advising programs, programs like ones hosted at George Mason, Boston College, and my alma mater, Carnegie Mellon (CMU).

In my role as a Career Peer Mentor (CPM) at the CMU Career and Professional Development Center (CPDC), I always looked forward to the opportunity to work individually with a student on one of their career documents, usually a first year student with a mocked up resume made the day before. I learned that career, to someone on the outside, can seem like a passive transfer of a student through the meaning-making of academics to the soul-sucking real world. However, I know that thinking about oneself in a professional manner is a really personal, narrative-based experience that is difficult for a student to convince themselves to go through, adding to the need to demystify the career education. I have worked with students who have told me that “I’ve never done anything, I don’t have any skills,” which is heartbreaking to hear and even more heartbreaking to see that person with their head down, feeling defeated before they even start. To alleviate this negativity, I asked students to detail a volunteer/part-time experience, what they did, and what resulted. They detailed their role for a minute or so as I jotted down key words and impressive phrasing, adding a strong action verb to the start. “So, you said that you ‘Led a cabin of 20, 8-10 year old students and provided them an environment of physical and mental wellness?’” Their voice after my summary suggested confirmation of my interpretation but their face displayed amazement, amazement that they truly have made a difference and do have skills. I saw my role as a CPM as a translator, interpreting a student’s disappointment, role explanation, and job description into short action statements and actual action plans. After translating an experience of theirs, I asked them to do the same thing for the next experience listed, with my guided help: “Say out what you’ve done, pick apart the themes that come through, and whittle it down to a few bullet points.”

It’s obvious that Career Services/Education is misunderstood by students in general, as shown by this Inside Higher Ed article stating that “only 17 percent of those who graduated from 2010 to 2016 said they found their college career centers to be “very helpful,” with another 26 percent reporting that the career office was “helpful.” I agree with Andy Chan, Vice President for Personal and Career Development at Wake Forest University, who in this article states that “one of the challenges is helping students understand that going to the career office is a multioccasion, multiyear experience, not just going ‘at least once.’ Sometimes students think they’ll go one time for 30 minutes and get everything they need, but it’s not that simple.” As CPMs, we address this issue by encouraging students to attend multiple CPM hall programs and teaching students how to request counseling appointments in the Career Center.

The Carnegie Mellon Career Peer Mentor logo. The logo is a read circle with the phrase "CPM career peer mentor" in white.
CMU Career Peer Mentor logo

Within the CPM residence hall mentor roles, we spent a lot of time building relationships with Residence Life and working with RA liaisons, attending extra hall events, adjusting our schedule for theirs, and making sure to update Housefellows/Resident Directors on our progress mid-semester. Even with these adjustments, we sometimes encountered negative feedback regarding the presence of CPMs in first-year halls from ResLife staff. Once, a staff member told my supervisor that our presence in the halls may cause students stress, pressuring them to have an internship by the second semester. I have come to understand her statement as both a misunderstanding of our role and the purpose of the program as well as a denial of the pressures students inherently face when attending a prestigious and expensive school well-known for the stress students undertake. We have found that peers offering career advice and addressing the professional needs of students literally where they are allows them to feel more comfortable in the process. Additionally, though we have specific workshop topics, all mentors worked with students where they were at, and addressed the needs they had at the time, preparing them to think about these topics before they got to their senior year and didn’t know what to do.

The image of a mission statement on sticky notes next to two markers. The sticky notes read "We strive to be active professional developmetn mentors connecting CPDC and the CMU community with a special focus on early caeer exploration."
CPM Mission Statement, developed with the help of Carnegie Leadership Consultants

I believe it is important to defend what you love and more importantly, let others know why you do. I hope that as I’ve described a couple of the myths related to Career Services and what I’ve gained from the excellent Career Staff at CMU, that others who may feel like it’s not something they’d like to do may give career a second chance. Every day I think to and use the skills that I gained as a CPM as a Student Affairs Graduate Student and within my graduate assistantship in Diversity and Inclusion. When I think to my future internship and job applications, I look with excitement and proactivity rather than fear. I’d even venture to say that my time at the Career Center, changed me very personally, as CliftonStrengths (formerly known as StrengthsQuest) has determined my top strength as ‘Futuristic.’ This position changed me as a person, secured my self-image as a leader, and continues to prepare me for the challenges I anticipate I’ll face as a professional. I thank the Career Center for what they taught me and hope to bring peer mentor programs to other career offices once I graduate.

Does your campus host a Career Peer Mentor-like program? If it does, what benefits and drawbacks have you seen? If not, how do you think a program like this could be implemented?

Header photo by Ian Schneider on Unsplash 📸