Two years ago UGA Housing gave me a chance by offering me a Graduate Assistantship in Brumby Hall. They offered me a position even though I had no experience in housing. I had never even lived on campus. (SHHHH…well I guess I can say that now). Housing departments at other schools I visited for graduate school were not even willing to give me an interview for their available assistantships. Thank you John Trawick for the offer to work in Brumby Hall!
With the guidance of some incredible mentors, I accepted the position at UGA. I am a much better professional because of my assistantship experience in housing. Over the past two years I have been challenged by duty calls, RA supervision, advising a first-year hall council, and other random issues that come up when working in a building of 950 first-year students (all female last year and co-ed this year!). I have also learned about the complexities of a housing department at a large public institution. Plus, it got a lot cooler when I realized the reason my room was so hot was because my vents were closed for a year :)
Not only have I gained tremendous experience, I was blessed with two (sort-of three if you count John) awesome supervisors, Megan Dailey and Rachel Butts. Megan provided me the support, structure, and guidance I needed as a first-year “deer in the headlights” Graduate Resident (her words to describe me that first semester). Rachel started at the beginning of my second year and has consistently served as a role model for student advising, among other things. Both these women are so dedicated to their jobs and truly invested in me as well as all students they work with. Tonight I am reflecting on my assistantship and my growth in this position after being honored as the 2013-2014 Graduate Resident of the Year.
So what is the takeaway here? Student affairs professionals and those that work in higher education need to do a better job recognizing transferable skills. Give undergraduate students, graduate students, and professional staff the opportunity to move within departments. Diversity of experiences makes individuals more knowledgeable professionals. Too often I see people turned down or shying away from applying to a position (even I have done this) because they do not have experience in the specific functional area. Expand your search to fill positions and look for unique individuals that will add to your office. UGA Housing did that for me, and I think it turned out okay, don’t you?