Student Affairs Twitter Resource Guide 2: Creating and Curating Your Unique Voice

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:

Hello again members of the Student Affairs profession! Welcome to the second iteration of the Student Affairs Twitter Resource Guide! If you have not read my first blog on this topic where I highlight tips on how to start your Student Affairs Twitter journey, check it out here first. Since the first publishing, I’ve added a section where I include more first follows, hashtags, and chats to participate in. As always, please feel free to comment with suggestions on other hashtags, chats, resources, and tips as well as questions about the platform!

The premise of this follow-up blog is this: “I’ve started my Twitter and engaged a bit, what now?” While the previous blog focused on starting your presence on Twitter, this blog will focus more on active engagement strategies and maximizing your brand on this social media platform. “Can’t Student Affairs be my brand?” Yes and no. Student Affairs more than likely is a differentiating factor between yourself and most users on Twitter, but not within the field. I hope through this blog readers can bridge the move from using Twitter passively to curating content to promote your specific brand within Student Affairs!

Twitter Lists

After presenting about Student Affairs Twitter at a regional Resident Assistants conference, the most popular questions revolved around the lists feature. On Twitter, you can group multiple accounts in a list that you give a name and description. With the list open, you’ll have a curated feed of specific Twitter accounts, their original tweets and tweets they retweet. Often these lists are created by folks who want to gauge how many individuals on Twitter are engaged in a specific topic. Earlier in the year, I was added to a ‘Higher Education Social Media’ list due to my interest in the topic, all my tweets featured amongst others that tend to revolved around that specific subject matter. All users can create a list and add other users manually via their profiles.

Not even all the lists I’m in!

One important aspect of creating lists is the ability to create feeds about specific topics or from accounts related to your goals. This strategy is important in getting started with sharing and adding your voice to curated content. For example in my role as the Master’s level Graduate Intern for NASPA this past summer, I created lists for the NASPA Divisions and Groups, Knowledge Communities, and Regions via the @NASPAInterns account: A couple times a week, I’ll browse through these lists to retweet relevant blogs and promote educational initiatives and opportunities that come from the staff and volunteers at NASPA.

For instructions and more details on creating lists:

Make Twitter a Routine

If you’re serious about using Twitter as another avenue for professional development and for name recognition, try a few of these tips to stay current and active the platform regularly:

  • Set Twitter activity goals. Why are you on Twitter? To directly chat with professionals you admire, to gain a sense of community outside of your campus, to find the latest blogs and share them with colleagues? These focuses all direct the type of content you create and promote and how often you do. As stated in first blog, posting more than once a day on Twitter is normal and often encouraged! Try tweeting three times a week: two original tweets and one retweet, and see how that feels. Are you connecting with folks? Are you learning more about the field as you scroll through your feed? Gauge your successes regularly and update your goals as you meet them!
  • Check Twitter every day. I’ve recently stumbled upon this great article on how professionals can use LinkedIn at least 15 minutes a week to maintain their activity. Great insights include making sure to like and comment on people’s statuses (especially if you’re hoping to maintain a relationship with them and reach out more meaningfully in the future) and spot-checking your profile for typos and incongruencies with your brand. What else can you apply from this article to your Twitter game?
  • Don’t want to tweet every day? Schedule them out! Try an app or website (I use Tweetdeck for example) that allows you to schedule pre-written tweets. Though scheduling is helpful with remaining active, you’ll still want to check the platform every once in a while to reply to others, to remain updated with local and national news that you may want to learn about and respond to, and be sure that any scheduled tweets do not go out on unfortunate times. There are some horror stories of innocuous tweets coming out during times where they contextually read as offensive. For example, a weekly Friday joke may look different if the tone for the day is somber after a national tragedy. Overall, a good mix of scheduled tweets and in the moment tweeting helps make the platform less time-consuming to use while also looking fresh and active. Here’s an informative article on balancing scheduling more generalized content and in-the-moment tweets.
  • Ride the Trending Wave. Every day, on both the website and the mobile app, Twitter will highlight trending hashtags and topics for the day. These insights allow members to celebrate fun and informal holidays such as #NationalCoffeeDay (September 29th) and connect that lightheartedness to your company, department, or personal/professional brand. They also ensure that your content is being pushed out to large crowds on the site, helping you engage with new people. Twitter also provides hashtags for your region which can key you into what topics are most salient for folks living around you. For example, #NASPA17 was trending in San Antonio during the conference!
Please let me know when it’s National Tea Day!

Your Own Voice

One defining trait that distinguishes you from HAVING a Twitter and USING the platform is sharing your unique voice, not only reaffirming the voices of others. This is where one’s unique Student Affairs branding truly starts. What distinguishes me as a Diversity and Inclusion professional (or ResLife, or Service Learning, etc. from professionals in other areas? What areas of expertise have I been honing in my work that I have research to back up and opinions that I’ve formed? Don’t just follow people and pages that resonate with your interests, but also contribute to the knowledge shared!


  • Giving a name to your brand. First, if you aren’t 100% sure on what exactly your brand is, don’t let that stop you from engaging online. As you engage, you gain exposure to how others invent and reinvent themselves which can hopefully help you gain insight on what makes you unique! To start thinking about what your brand is, ask friends and colleagues what helps make you unique. Perhaps your penchant for writing and research could help you brand in a different way than your commitment to infusing humor and pun-making into your work. Both are valid aspects of the self that you could focus on that help you distinguish yourself. This is an area that I’m working on too!
  • Balancing personal and professional tweets. For those who wish to not keep two separate Twitter accounts for the personal and professional, thinking about how you wish to balance these spheres is important! For example, more personal posting is more likely to gain engagement from folks that you know in-person while focusing on the professional usually connects you to others in the field. There is no perfect formula or percentage breakdown for success in this balance. Thinking again to the brand you wish to present, what balance works best? For example, in my case as a second-year graduate student, my more personal posts (like about a hard week or hearing the ice cream truck near my apartment) are more likely to expected due to my student status. Additionally, it’s important to showcase your personality and your interests outside of Higher Education. Interest groups like Student Affairs Runners wouldn’t have come about if everyone engaged only about the field!
  • Own your knowledge! Don’t be afraid to nerd out a little bit in 140 characters (or 280 if you have that now!) Find accounts and chats related to your expertise and share it. For example, there are hashtags who folks who share expertise on being a professor, on content writing, on alumni services, etc.
  • Own your learning! Twitter chats are a great place to find out what you don’t know and use the collective to help you find resources to further educate yourself. You can use a tweet to ask a question or use Twitter polls as an engaging way to gain public opinion on a topic. Asking a question every once in a while doesn’t make your brand ‘Doesn’t know things.’ Instead, it allows you another way to engage with your followers and continue your learning.
  • Don’t only retweet! If an article or blog shared by another personal resonates with you, don’t just reshare it! Quote the tweet with your opinion, with a suggestion, with a quote in it that stuck out to you and why, with an opposing stance, etc. Use this space to also share your original content. This may be photos that you take, a blog that you have recently posted on your website, an article that you were mentioned in, etc. All of these pieces of content help establish you as a contributor of knowledge.

Give Your Notifications Some Attention

Twitter has started sending out more notification types lately, some more arguably ‘annoying’ than others. Why would I want to know if someone has started tweeting again? Or that five people I follow are chatting about a specific hashtag? Though these notifications may push to your phone more than once a day, these are useful insights if you act on them within the day!

Twitter notifications alert on the mobile version
  • A person you follow just started tweeting again? Tweet at them or message them welcoming them back to Twitter! They may follow you after you connect with them and that may encourage them to continue participating
  • Folks you follow are tweeting about #SAChat or #TuesdayThoughts? Check out the conversations and see if you can contribute! Participating in these hot topics can help you get noticed and help you stay current in the field and with local and national news.
  • General notifications. It’s tempting to turn off your notifications as a whole, especially during a highly-attended Twitter chat, but don’t turn them off long-term! It’s important to engage with folks on the platform while they’re on it. And like above, seeing what your notifications are and the types of posts that your followers and others are engaging with are useful bits of information for future post making.

Practice Makes Perfect!

Promoting yourself as a brand is difficult. Sometimes it’s hard starting off without a mission and vision statement about yourself. It’s often easier to read up on and embody the values and brand of an organization that you run or a department that you serve in. And often, by tweeting through another account, you can learn what works with the populations you’re trying to engage and how to transfer those skills to you personal account! Here are some ways that you can continue to gain social media experience.

  • Find opportunities to moderate a Twitter chat. Moderating a Twitter chat is tough work. You need to have the questions prepared, the chat well-advertised beforehand, and skills in facilitating dialogue about tough conversations. However, these skills can be taught! Historically, the Student Affairs Collective has had volunteers who take turns to “MOD” their weekly chats. As the opportunities are open, they should share them out! Additionally, every Spring the #SAGrad chat looks for a new moderator. Keep on the lookout for these opportunities if available!
  • Be Their Guest. Some Twitter chats are looking for guests to help co-moderate a chat and provide their expertise in a subject area. @BlogElevated does a great job of partnering with marketing experts and corporate partners to broaden and deepen the scopes of their chats.
  • Twitter Takeovers anyone? I have had the opportunity to engage in a Student Twitter Takeover during my first year of graduate school. Slippery Rock University allows students of all years, majors, and backgrounds to apply to take over the @srustudents Twitter account for a week during the semester. I used my run as the Twitter takeover student to educate about entering the field of student affairs, chat about what it’s like as a graduate student, and to promote a networking night that I was hosting with Student Affairs Professionals on-campus. I learned a lot about patterns of Twitter usage from students, how to pre-write my tweets in advance so that I had content, and how to hone my student voice in order to relate more to undergraduate students.
My brief stint of fame at Slippery Rock University (At least I’m still the @SRU_saga President!)


Twitter seems like a lot of work, huh? It definitely can be if you try to do everything all at once. However, a little work every day (or most days) can help you develop a unique voice in the field. Engaging in Twitter and using it to create and promote your brand can pay off in views to your content such as blog posts or your LinkedIn. Standardizing your engagement can also pay off in the relationships that you build and maintain through the website and find yourself a community of supporters in our profession. The opportunities available to demonstrate your expertise and to learn will hopefully bring you back regularly. This openness to a non-traditional form of professional development and education can certainly kick start your brand from the start!

Header photo by Chris J. Davis on Unsplash 📸 The 9,400 Square Foot Campus

This past spring as I was applying and interviewing for summer internships, I wanted to find a position that would allow me to distinguish myself as a professional with experiences both in and adjacent to the campus environment. As these interviews went from the first to second rounds, I realized that the pull of interning in a more generalist higher education space was where I needed to be to grow into a more dynamic professional. During this summer internship period in Washington, D.C. at the NASPA Central Office, gained a macro-level view of the function of student affairs and our role within higher education as a whole. I was also able to compare and contrast the values, environment, and structure of this association to the campuses that I’ve attended and worked at. Below are my observations on NASPA University!

NASPA - Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education lol

Mission and Values

NASPA seeks “to be the principal source of leadership, scholarship, professional development, and advocacy for student affairs” by serving “a full range of professionals who provide programs, experiences, and services that cultivate student learning and success in concert with the mission of our colleges and universities.” NASPA indirectly touches the lives of the students that professionals work with daily, helping them gain skills and relevant, up-to-date knowledge on how to serve them. When thinking to the model of a university, I’d say that NASPA members are like the students at the university, gaining the practical knowledge needed to do the best work for the campus community. NASPA is an educational place, for graduate students, practitioners, researchers, and policymakers, and as we invest in professional development, we invest in all who we work with and serve+.

Locations and Spaces

NASPA’s “main campus” exists in the Central Office located in Washington, D.C. The association additionally has “branch campuses” in Denver where our BACCHUS Initiatives are housed as well as the multiple locations across the country where NASPA staff members work remotely. NASPA also extends their online ‘campus’ component to their constantly updated blog and constituent contributions and the many online tools that connect the team together. As NASPA continues to make its mark online, this placement mirrors the growing number of online learners who attend classes virtually.

Office Structure and Roles

The office structure and roles at NASPA often mirror those of on-campus Student Affairs offices. As illustrated on the NASPA Staff page, the organization is lead by a President and three Vice Presidents for the three overall organizational divisions at NASPA: Professional Development, Operations, and Research and Policy. Under these auspices are the directors for various departments, their assistant directors, often times a departmental assistant, and interns.

Member and Student Interaction

Throughout the year, NASPA hosts multiple work-study students from neighboring universities who aid in departmental work in accounting, membership, educational programs, and in research and policy. And of course, during the summer NASPA hosts graduate, undergraduate, and high school interns that work with full-time staff members to create and deliver well-rounded services to 16,000 members and counting. Though students aren’t always buzzing around NASPA’s office on the daily, our association still has direct connections with students through the NASPA Undergraduate Fellows Program (NUFP), the Graduate Associate Program (GAP), and the New Professionals and Graduate Students Knowledge Community (NPGS KC). In addition, if you find yourself in the DC area during the summer, NASPA hosts an open house and rooftop reception!

For members, NASPA’s Constituent Groups (such as the Divisions, Regions & Areas, Knowledge Communities) serve like majors and ‘student’ organizations on a campus, bringing together people through content interests and identity affiliations. These co-curricular and often digital spaces allow us to transcend our physical campuses, if only for a little while, to gauge best practices for students and for ourselves.


Staffing the joint-located Closing the Achievement Gap and Symposium on Financial Well-being conferences with NUFP Intern, Thalia

Having the privilege of serving as the 2017 NASPA Summer Graduate Intern allowed me to have a myriad of unique experiences, ones that I may not have had if I had interned on a campus. From staffing a 500 person joint-located conference, to planning and translating a national social media campaign centered around our field’s progression, many of these learning moments and opportunities for me to grow were unique to a higher education association. I challenge all incoming and current graduate students to think of the multiple spaces adjacent to the campus environment and to think how their degree can often translate far past a campus. As my supervisor Lucy explained in one of our last meetings, our degrees are often focused on the training and development of young people, skills which can easily be used on campus, in various non-profits, and even for-profits! Look for the spaces that excite you, that bring you toward new experiences, and that will challenge and push you. I did and I’m thankful for graduating from NASPA U!

Header photo by Susie Ho 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:

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 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! (

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:


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 📸

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:

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 📸