Wow, where did the time go? Seems like yesterday I was moving into my apartment in Herkimer Hall on Colonial Quad at SUNY-Albany to start my career in student affairs. Nervous, but excited to get started. Well, 32 years have slipped by and I find myself at the dawn of another academic year. The realization of passing time got me thinking about what I do to get ready for a new year, to get energized, to get prepared. It also got me wondering about what other long-time student affairs professionals do to get “up” for a new year, so I hope to hear some responses to this blog entry from other veterans. I also realize that this blog entry is coming on top of another on the very same topic. Hey, we’re all thinking along the same lines.
I think of student affairs as a re-oriented set of seasons. What I mean by this is that instead of the four seasons being in their usual places (e.g., January and February=winter, July and August=summer), they are in different places for student affairs. For instance, in student affairs August is really springtime. At the end of the spring semester our campus sheds its leaves of students and most of the day-to-day trappings of working with students. The summer months, therefore, are really the wintertime of student affairs. Our campuses become relatively quiet (I was worried when I wrote this that orientation people would take exception to this portrayal but I realized they are so busy right now, they aren’t even reading this blog!). Summer is a time of project work, vacation, relaxation, and, most importantly, assessment, reflection, and planning. To the external world our divisions may appear to be somewhat dormant, but like the seeds and bulbs of the field there is important work going on beneath the surface. August is when we till the soil of our ideas, reflections, and plans; where we start to plant the seeds of programs, initiatives, and changes.
Anyone who has done serious gardening recognizes that work has to be done before seeds can be planted. Old growth needs to be removed, the soil needs to be loosened and prepared, stones need to be removed, and channels for seeds need to be created. Preparing for a new year in student affairs requires some of the same. A hard, reflective look at last year’s efforts needs to occur. Programs and initiatives that have outlived their usefulness need to be raked out. “Good ideas” that struggled to grow and bloom need recommitment and nurturance or they need to be torn out to make room for the growth of other programs or for new initiatives.
For me, August is a time for recalling why I got into this business in the first place; a time to reflect on my core values (student growth, integrity, customer care and service, persistence despite obstacles, innovation, and leadership) and consider how I have and haven’t lived them during the past year. August is when I take all the ideas that have percolated to the surface during the quiet of summer and decide which to take on; which to plant and nurture and which to leave aside.
It is the energy of future ideas, programs, and initiatives contributing to the growth and development of students that has me experiencing the energy of spring in August. We work hard in training our staffs, planning our work, and orienting our new students in order to watch our campuses burst into bloom as we turn into the corner into September.
So I encourage you to take the time during the next week or so to:
- reflect on your values and why you got into student affairs;
- look back on the previous year and consider what you can learn about yourself and your work;
- choose what you want to emphasize in the coming year (whether it be something new or something you have already been working on); and
- commit to being in action regarding your plans and dreams.
Happy spring, everyone!
So, what do you do to get energized for the new year?Patrick Love Associate Vice President for Student Affairs Rutgers University firstname.lastname@example.org