The first month of being a new graduate student in the Florida State University HESA Program
By Ben Cecil
In looking back on my first few months in Tallahassee as a new graduate student in the Higher Education program, I try to think of just one word which might describe this experience – and the closest I can come up with remains “busy.” I always knew that the transition from my undergraduate career to beginning my assistantship in July, plus beginning classes, would give the word a new meaning. As I reflect on the last few months I’ve had since relocating to Tallahassee, I feel proud of the amount of work that we accomplished, and feel a great sense of excitement of knowing what’s all to come.
For my assistantship, I work with University Housing. I previously served as a RA at my undergraduate institution and truly enjoy the level of interaction I get with my students and residents as a result of my live-in position. I came to Tallahassee in early July, ready to begin our Head Staff training. For three weeks, we went over policies, procedures, and protocols for everything from crisis management, to student staff supervision and advising, to human resources and payroll. For the first time, I felt like I was treated as a professional, and allowed to do my job to the best of my ability. Following Head Staff training, we all got our hands dirty in helping to close our buildings from summer classes, and prepare to open again for our resident assistants and their training.
As any student affairs professional will attest to, the months of July and August often seem like a blur, full of early mornings, late nights, and weekends in which work becomes the norm. Of course, right after Head Staff training wrapped up, we jumped straight into undergraduate student staff training for our resident assistants, receptionists, and night staff members. For a few days, it felt like I had forgotten why I had chosen to come to Florida State – academics! Having the opportunity able to finally connect with my cohort and enjoy time together with faculty while registering for classes gave us all a breath of fresh air. Special shout out to those HESA Board members who worked so hard to make our orientation a great experience!
Speaking of classes, I truly understand now what the concept of “theory to practice” means. I look most specifically at Dr. Coburn’s Student Personnel Services in Higher Education class, where much of our readings come from the governing bodies of student affairs, and the expectations they set for the professionals in our field. While the workload feels intense, I feel like each assignment is intentionally designed to relate back to exactly what we experience in our assistantships. In addition, I enjoy Research Methods in Higher Education as well as Dr. Schwartz’s Higher Education in America class, all of which have proven intellectually stimulating and thought provoking only a few weeks into the semester.
While it may appear that there isn’t too much time for socializing, the cohorts always find time for a quick bite to eat before or after class, a weekend get-together, or tailgate before a football game. I believe firmly that these colleagues I have met through my cohort will become some of my lifelong friends. I even had the chance to visit New Orleans over Labor Day weekend, a welcomed breath of fresh air after the first week of class. I reflect back on my first few months with a smile, because nothing that has happened since I came to Florida State could have been predicted. The numerous professional development opportunities that presented themselves during the first few weeks of classes serve as nothing but a learning experience, and I now feel as though I can handle any situation thrown my way.
In closing, I smile just thinking over the breadth of opportunities that have already presented themselves at Florida State. I look forward to continue growing in my assistantship and becoming more comfortable in that role, and eagerly await the opportunity to continue learning both inside and outside of the classroom about the dynamic field of Student Affairs. I think what I most am eager for is to continue building relationships with those in the cohort, the faculty, and other staff members across the Division of Student Affairs. If the first few months have started off this great, I can’t wait to see what the next two years have in store.