How was the transition from the ESC to SOS?
It was a somewhat difficult transition for a few reasons. From the time I was first approached about the position to when I started was such a short timeline, so the transition happened pretty quickly. For a few weeks, I worked between offices helping wrap up projects and orienting Giovanni Milan who was my interim replacement. I started in SOS at the end of July, which is the peak of preparing for the ESC Conference. The ESC Program Coordinator is the chair of the Conference committee, so I stepped down from being chair and sat in on the committee instead. Primarily, though, the most difficult aspect was the emotional transition. I was in the ESC for close to three years, and because my home-home is Southern California, the ESC really was home for me here in Bellingham. There, I built connections with students, made a lot of memories, cried (from joy, sadness, and everything in-between), and grew significantly. I know I’m just across the street in a different building, but the distance feels greater.
What are the differences and similarities?
My role in the ESC was heavily focused on programming, especially the ESC Conference and the ESC Commencement with some other smaller programs throughout the year. Most of the work was very much logistical and behind-the-scenes, and the majority of my time was spent thinking of the overall frame of the programs and conceiving of the possibilities for implementing them. The ESC only had two full-time staff members, so it was a smaller team, and Nate’s role as the Coordinator required him to be in a great deal of meetings either in or outside of our center, so I spent a lot of solitary time in my office doing the work to make a program come alive. I am an introverted person, so I could almost tuck myself away in a sense, which really worked for me. Taking this role in SOS has challenged me in many ways, because, as an Academic Support Coordinator, I spend so much more time talking to people than I’m used to! Both the ESC and SOS are focused on retention, but they implement interventions using different lenses, with the former attending more to students feeling connected culturally and socially and the latter attending more to connecting with students individually to provide guidance as they work toward their academic goals. That said, students’ lives are complex, so there’s really no rigid separation between academic life, cultural life, social life, or other factors, so the work of both offices inevitably overlaps.
How do you change your work structure based on your new capacity?
When I was in the ESC, I had a lot of freedom to structure my time the way that I wanted to based on whatever program we had going on at the time. Each day, I would assess what long-term projects I needed to work on, identify what upcoming deadlines there were, establish the priorities, and that’s where I would focus my attention. In SOS, appointments with students are scheduled on my behalf and the student needs are all so diverse, and I’m never sure what to expect. In that sense, this role requires me to be a lot more flexible.
How has your contact with students changed?
It’s pretty significant. Both roles have an ever-revolving door of students with whom I interact. There is a very specific energy to the Viking Union, with its bustle and frenzy, and the ESC was no exception. The ESC is always so vibrant with activity, lots of traffic, students who drop-in unexpectedly to have a conversation, and so on. We would usually see the same collection of students on an almost daily basis and so the relationships we formed were different. In SOS, the interactions with students are usually scheduled, with dedicated time to discuss academic planning, career exploration, and other concerns. Even though I would have similar conversations with students in the ESC, it was in a more informal way.
What is something new you enjoy and something old you might miss?
I am enjoying building on new skills and challenging myself. I had just really settled into my job at the ESC where I felt as though I knew (somewhat) what I was doing, and then now I’ve started a new job and am back to step one. It’s interesting to see how student affairs works from different lenses, how the conversations and priorities change, how—although I may be interacting with the same person—our interactions can be so starkly different. As far as what I miss, that connects to what I said before about the ESC being my Bellingham home, so I’ll talk about something different. I really drew from the energy of the VU, and especially running into people in the halls, on the stairs, wherever and having an impromptu conversation. On a more shallow level, I really miss having the VU Café and Market right upstairs…though it’s probably better for me calorie-wise and money-wise to be further away.
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