In the field of student affairs, there are many professional associations for different specialized areas. NASPA Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education, is a national association for student affairs professionals which houses the NUFP program for undergraduate students who may one day become part of the field. The NASPA Undergraduate Fellows Program allows students to explore student affairs as a potential career by pairing them with mentors currently in the field. Traditionally, the mission of NUFP is to increase the number of historically disenfranchised and underrepresented professionals in student affairs and/or higher education, including but not limited to those of racial and ethnic-minority background. This program, now in its 25th year, has made significant contributions to field of student affairs and to the lives of many NUFP students across the country.
The Dungy Leadership Institute (DLI) is one of the opportunities of membership in the NUFP Program. DLI brings together students from all over to develop their leadership skills, aid in preparation for graduate work and the field of student affairs, build networks and friendships among fellows and professionals, all while challenging them to expand their comfort zones. In order to be considered for selection, NUFP students go through an application process and only 32 NUFPs from across the country are selected to partake in this special opportunity. This year, 4 of those outstanding individuals were future Noles in the FSU HESA Class of 2016 – Aura, Ali, Christian, and Mallory. As a former NUFP and DLI 13 alumnae, I was extremely proud of these individuals and have asked them to share their experiences.
How does this experience help students prepare for the field of student affairs?
Ali: During the week at the Dungy Leadership Institute, many topics relevant to student affairs professionals are addressed, including intersectionality, diversity, and inclusion. These all relate to our future positions at universities where we will have the opportunity to positively influence the students and environment we work with. One of the most rewarding aspects of DLI was the opportunity to connect and form relationships with other students, faculty, and staff from across the nation who are going through some of the same experiences as you are. As someone who was not able to attend the 2014 Annual Conference in Baltimore, this experience was enriching and filled the gaps I did not realize I was missing. I know the people I interacted with through this experience will be my friends, colleagues, support system, and much more for many years to come. From the structured events to the organic conversations during free time, my passion for Student Affairs was fueled and I became more comfortable with my decisions to pursue this career path and do the work that so many of my mentors do. The Dungy Leadership Institute not only reaffirmed my decision but it also propelled my excitement and made me realize I am ready to embark on this journey. Because of the opportunities granted to me through NASPA and as a NUFP, I have made lasting relationships with people nationwide. This is one experience and opportunity that will stay with me forever.
Aura: The case study portion of the institute was definitely a challenge, but not in the way I expected it to be. If I had to imagine any other group in similar circumstances--late nights, lots of work and debate on perspectives and presentation, a time crunch as tight as ours--I would imagine a lot of stress, argumentation, and frustration. Groups of strangers mashed together don't always produce a positive experience, but this was entirely different. Yes, we had disagreements and sometimes lack of sleep made us a little delirious, but we came together cohesively and we took care of each other. Every group's presentation was proof of the hard work we put into it. Our dedication built a sense of camaraderie between us and gave us a preview of the kind of work to expect throughout our graduate careers. Ali, Mallory, and I ended up in the same cluster group and while I started off worried about the research portion since I had never done a case study before, Mallory had plenty of case study experience and was great about sharing with the group. We all felt so tremendously accomplished at the end; it reminded me that the feeling we had at the end of DLI was a small sample of what we'll feel at the end of our graduate work.
I really can't imagine an introduction to student affairs better than the one NASPA has given me. It's cheesy to say "it changed my life" but in a literal sense, it did. My attention to NASPA regionally and nationally allowed me to attend pre-conferences, conferences, and now DLI. If I decided to take a road trip and visit a bunch of different states, I would find at least one friendly, familiar face in most places and I owe that to my NASPA experience thus far and I'm so thankful.
How has this experience shaped you as a professional?
Christian: For me, DLI was the culminating experience of my entry into student affairs from another field outside of education. Unlike many of my peers, I had just finished a year-long transition from an established career in communications. Although a career in higher education had been on my mind since as early as late 2011 when I applied for membership in NUFP, I was struggling with a belief that I was at a disadvantage when compared to my peers that transitioned straight from their undergraduate years into graduate school or professional work. Taking advantage of opportunities to get involved in NASPA programming, including attending the Annual Conference this year, made the transition easier; however, I still needed something a bit more impactful to jumpstart my time at Florida State. Being able to share my stories of struggle and triumph with the cohort at DLI, some of whom I had already met through the NASPA Annual Conference, added a sense of value to my story and encouragement to my work. It reminded me that, although each of our experiences and backgrounds may be different, we each have something unique and valuable to contribute to the field.
The conversations that impacted me the most, though, weren’t even the ones held in sessions or during activities… they were the candid, authentic one-on-one chats. The talks held on the couches of the suites we stayed in, or in the morning in front of the mirror as me and my roommates got ready for a new day. The times when we discussed everything from funny YouTube videos and RuPaul’s Drag Race to the loss of family members and how much I miss my baby brothers back home. For it was in those moments, after learning early on that we weren’t being judged for who we were or were not, that we were able to be truly vulnerable about ourselves, our identities, and our roles in this field. As we move on in our careers, the members of my DLI cohort will never just be ‘people I met at a conference’. Regardless of where they might be across the nation and throughout the world, these 32 NUFP Fellows and our faculty members will forever be my friends… my family.
Mallory: Since deciding that I wanted to pursue Student Affairs in Fall 2012, I have been constantly surrounded by supporters, mentors, and supervisors already working in the field that have helped me through every step of the process of applying to graduate school and connecting more with NASPA. Being affiliated with NASPA and the NUFP program has helped me bridge the gap between my involvement on my campus, my passion for working with students, and evolving this into a professional career, and the experiences it has provided me have been truly solidifying that Student Affairs is the profession for me. I was fortunate enough to attend the NASPA 2014 conference where I began to establish a network of peers embarking on the same journey as I was, and even got to reconnect with many friends I had already made at FSU during Visiting Days. Many of us talked about how amazing it would be to continue to see each other at future NASPA conferences and maybe even the Dungy Leadership Institute over the summer. Our hopes became reality when four of us were given the amazing privilege to attend. DLI proved to be one of my most significant, challenging, and reassuring experiences with my chosen career thus far. Words cannot express how moved, inspired, and energized I was by DLI, and to have fellow Noles beside me through all of the laughs and tears has made me feel strongly connected to FSU and the LifeNet, even before classes begin. My affiliations with NASPA and FSU have helped me feel comfortable and excited about creating personal and professional networks with my future colleagues in the field of Student Affairs, equipping me with the relationship-building skills that are so highly treasured in the work we do. In my transition into graduate school at FSU, I hope to continue to build on my relationship with NASPA by staying involved and hopefully attending the 2015 Annual Conference with many of my cohort mates and other friends I have made at DLI.
Ali: The Dungy Leadership Institute in Salt Lake City, Utah was the first time since Interview Days in February that I was able to spend some quality time with members of the class of 2016 cohort! I remember there was a combination of comfort and excitement when we initially found out that there were four Seminoles attending DLI. This was the perfect opportunity to forge relationships with a part of the incoming cohort. We got a chance to interact, live in the same housing complex, share our authentic and vulnerable selves, and even work together on a case study. Not only that, there was a certain pride that remained with each of us as we would talk about where we are beginning our student affairs journey in the fall. After every introduction, we would say “Go Noles!” with the tomahawk chop hand motion and others would join us. I believe this experience was remarkably a positive one and I am grateful to have shared it with a part of our cohort. This makes me even more excited to make the move to Tallahassee, reconnect with the people I interacted with at DLI, and connect with the rest of the cohort. I have a feeling we are going to have a great cohort experience.
Editor’s Note: Here at Florida State we have our own version of the NUFP Program, the NASPA Noles Undergraduate Program (N2UFP). We recruit undergraduate students from all over campus who are looking to explore their interests in student affairs and match them with current Florida State employees who serve as mentors. For more information about how to get involved with N2UFP as an FSU undergraduate or nominate a student who may be a great fit for the program, please contact Mallory Garcia at email@example.com.