Anyone that knows me closely knows that I thrive on the relationships with those I consider close to me in my life. Somewhere back in June, I had the bright idea to start applying for Residence Life positions all over the United States, desperate to get back into Student Affairs, knowing that the longer I spent out of Student Affairs the harder it would be to get back in. In July, I was offered a position as a First-Year Residential Experience Coordinator at Winston-Salem State University in North Carolina, and though I was sad, I was also excited for the opportunity to get back into my career field.
When I got to North Carolina, everything seemed to be taking a turn in a great direction. An impromptu decision had my best friend, Rob, staying up here for my first week, so we got to hangout and talk about the new job every day after I came home from my office (which was really just the conference room in the main Housing Office, because my office didn’t exist yet). Things seemed to be going really well, we were getting to know my co-workers and going out to eat with them almost every night, and I thought I had found a great fit for myself at WSSU.
Rob left on a bus to go back home, and I missed him. Still, things seemed to be going alright with work, and for the next couple weeks, I was still floating around on cloud nine in my new job. There was a lot up in the air still, because my supervisor, the other co-worker that holds my position, and me were all building this program from the ground up. All-in-all, it looked as if we were building a program that would be beneficial to the students participating in it, and we were ready to take on the world when move-in day for Freshman came.
The semester started, and I was excited to start meeting with students. We had our first official FYRE meeting, and there was a great turnout. Out of 100 students, only about 20 were missing from the meeting. My co-worker and I scheduled first meetings with our halves of the students, and we finished out the night with pizza and soda as we sat around getting to know the students we would be working with.
Then, the second week of classes began. This was the week when we had scheduled the meetings with our students. We wanted them to take the first week of classes to get settled and adjusted to living in the residence halls. Scheduled meeting by scheduled meeting came and went, and about one-fourth of the students that had set up a time to talk with me during the first FYRE meeting actually came to their appointment. Each day, I was beginning to get a little more frustrated. After each missed meeting, we’d call the student and find mostly voicemail prompts waiting for us. Emails were sent, and still the students didn’t show up to our offices.
After some investigation, we found out that signing up for the FYRE program had been part of the housing application process. Anyone familiar with the field of Student Affairs knows that parents are heavily involved in every step of their freshman student’s admissions, housing, and sometimes even class scheduling. Parents want to have their fingers in every aspect of their student’s life during that first year (and most of the time it continues on into their sophomore year and beyond). Now, my co-worker and I had a sense of what was really going on. Parents had signed their students up for housing and most likely saw the FYRE program, thought it would be perfect for their students, and signed them up for it. Further investigation revealed that this was the case when we began tracking our students down and asking them if they remembered signing up for the program, to which most replied, “No.”
What we found led us to begin asking our students whether they wished to remain in the program or opt-out. We couldn’t really force the students to participate in the program when they had no idea that they’d been signed up for it. My half of the students went from 50 students to around 30. Out of the 30, still only around half show up to their meetings with me.
All of that lengthy explanation goes to say this: I’m second guessing my decision to pack up and move 800 miles away from home. I want to be in education. I spent seven years of college working toward a Bachelor of Science in Middle School Education and a Master of Science in Student Affairs in Higher Education degree, because I want to be in education. I want to work with students; however, I don’t feel as if the role I play here is important. Our students don’t utilize the FYRE program. The students that do utilize it, could be leading the program as Peer Mentors. They’re the academically successful students that we’ve already recommended as Peer Mentors and RAs for next year’s recruitment.
So, I’ve started my job search process once again. At the present moment, I don’t intend on leaving WSSU until I find something else; however, it’s been rumored that this program may not even exist next year if it’s not being utilized by students. I’m looking currently for Student Affairs jobs in St. Louis, because that’s ultimately where I’d like to be. When I return home for Winter Break, I’ll be setting up an appointment to have my fingerprints scanned in order to have a background check conducted, so I can receive my teaching certificate again. When spring comes, if I’m still at WSSU, I’ll begin looking for both Student Affairs and teaching positions. I can see myself being happy in both Student Affairs or teaching in schools. I’d be ok with either.
Right now, I’m miles away from everyone that I care about. My family, my best friend (and my other best friend, Stephanie, who moved to Rolla right as I moved to North Carolina), and everything else I’ve come to care about is back in Missouri, so that’s where I’m trying to get to. Maybe I was silly to think that I could just pack up and move 800 miles away and retain my sanity. I’m a person very much in need of close connections, and even among those I thought were my friends up here I feel as if I’ve been ostracized. So, I’m on a mission to get back to where I know I’m wanted, and I’m once again on a search to find my fit.
I haven’t written on this blog for quite a while, but I just felt like I needed to get that off my chest.