The academic experiences I am most grateful for include those that aid my mission to prioritize inclusive excellence. Theoretical frameworks in SDAD 5400, Student Development Theory, Research, and Practice, supported my values as an educator striving for greater equity in higher education. Yosso’s Community Cultural Wealth, Delgado and Stefancic’s Critical Race Theory, and Pope’s Multicultural Competency Model serve as frames of thought with which I approach my academic and practical experiences. Therapeutic counseling skills gained in COUN 5100, Fundamentals of Counseling, as well as leadership models explored in EDAD 5700, Leadership in Education I, laid the foundational groundwork for skills I use daily as a professional.
The SDA program has sharpened the skills and methods of critical thought I brought with me to Seattle University. While I felt strong in my ability to unpack and discuss my identities coming into the program, I now have a more firm understanding of how my identities exist in the context of a system that was not originally created for practitioners like myself who identify as people of color, queer, and with unstable socioeconomic backgrounds. My approach to applying my critical lens to higher education has evolved into a more refined strategic method focused on creating positive change prioritizing efficacy over expediency.
As a graduate intern with Seattle University’s International Student Center, I practiced applying my specialty area in multimedia production to a functional area I was previously unfamiliar with. In combining my skills to this new practical context, I realized my capacity for adapting my creative talents to student affairs. This experience reaffirmed my interest in pursuing professional opportunities that allow me to apply my background in multimedia management to higher education contexts.
As an ACUHO-I intern, I served as a Resident Director for Rhode Island School of Design’s Pre-College Summer Program in the Residence Life Department. In a familiar functional area at an unfamiliar institution type and geographical region, this internship experience reminded me of my strength in adaptability in the face of challenging transitions and discomfort.
In the first year of the program, I served as an Assistant Resident Director (ARD) in Seattle University’s Housing and Residence Life (HRL) Department. With a background in residence life and an experience full of transition, I was granted more opportunities to lead independently than most ARDs receive in their first year in the position. The most significant learning point for me was discovering my leadership potential and developing my professional identity beyond what I could have expected in my first year.
In the second year of the SDA program, I began my full-time professional position as the Social Media Marketing Specialist at Seattle University’s Marketing Communications Division. This opportunity revealed what my creative skills can produce within the higher education context when paired with a background in student affairs administration. In marrying my two practical areas of expertise, this opportunity has taught me the value of knowing where my strengths lie and learning how to lean into them all at once as a professional.
Implications for Practice
While I have grown exponentially in this program, there will always be areas of growth left for me as a professional. Moving forward, the critical lens I have honed in this program will lend itself well to reflecting on my professional path and questioning my own practice. Additionally, I aspire to use my learning to question the systems within which I practice with the intention of contributing to a more equitable and humane environment for all involved.
To increase financial accessibility for students, the program should consider eliminating required summer courses. Graduate Assistants are not typically contracted through the summer quarter and thus have a difficult time paying for credits when they may not be generating income. Additionally, securing tuition remission for all Graduate Assistants would increase access, as GA compensation does not provide enough to cover expenses. Academic focuses on supporting international students, undocumented students, students with disabilities, and higher education finances would also make the program stronger.
Within the Jesuit educational mission of social justice and inclusion, I aspire to use my SDA experience to create positive change for marginalized populations in whichever professional focus I occupy. As a leader, the Jesuit mission has also ingrained within me the value of an ethic of care and the importance of advocacy for the oppressed. The critical lens I apply to my practice and to myself will be a hallmark of my professional foundation.