I understand the fact that you were probably tricked into reading this blog via a fake link to vote for the world’s cutest puppy, or see the trailer for the new Twilight movie, or to win a free copy of FIFA ’13. That being said I realize I have about three paragraphs to explain how I got into Student Affairs and why I am still working in it today. It also needs to be noted that this is a blog so please understand I am fighting the urge to talk about thick-rimmed glasses, mustaches, fixed gear bicycles, and skinny jeans.
I digress; I attended Quinnipiac University set in the rolling hills of scenic Hamden Connecticut and majored in Mass Communications with a focus on media production. I had a radio show, worked with the campus television station, and produced short films. I was having a ton of fun and was good at all of it. My roommates and I were getting A’s, winning awards, and even landed a summer internship working in Los Angeles for Andy Dick (he was relevant for something other than Celebrity Rehab at one point) just before our senior year. While I slept on the flight to L.A. I dreamt of being on location and filming for MTV, winning a dance-off at Diddy’s white party, and accepting my own star of the Walk-of-Fame, all of which were shattered within minutes of landing at LAX and pulling my rolling suitcase across the streets of Beverly Hills feeling incredibly lost. My two roommates and I went out there with no idea what we would actually be doing, a few hundred dollars each, and no place to live (the first placed we went and checked out was this purple sequined, cat loving magician named Figgy who offered to have us stay under his kitchen table for $200 each a month. We respectfully declined. Though found out he auditioned for America’s Got Talent years later, we assume he is as bad of a magician and he would have been landlord).
Our first day on set we simply hung out around the Kraft-services snack table, because of the unions we could not touch any of the equipment or appear on screen and everyone who was already working on the show assumed we were trying to steal their jobs. Time at work was spent with a five-gallon tub of Twizzlers and even more dirty looks. Our nights were not nearly as lavish as we had imagined either, dinners at Del Taco and walking the Hollywood strip alone was not what we had pictured. We spent money on a car that had a “slight dent in the hood” which nearly flew open on the 101 and had to be secured down with double-wide shoelaces and dog chains from the dollar store. Our spirits broken and our pockets empty we had to return to the East Coast nearly a month early. I vowed never to return to L.A. on the long flight home and dreaded the start of my senior year with no desire to continue with my major and limited options as far as what I was going to do next.
About a month into first semester the Dean of Students who I knew through orientation, my fraternity, and student government sat down and asked what I was going to do after graduation. I recanted my tales of Los Angeles and my uncertainty of what was next. She invited me to be an intern at the NASPA Region I conference, a conference for Student Affairs professionals, on the drive home she pointed out that all the things I enjoyed doing as extracurricular activities could potentially turn into a career. I would need to begin applying to graduate programs almost immediately but there was finally a viable alternative to L.A..
Feeling a desperate need to have an answer to the “so what are you going to do next?” question I decided to skip the GRE’s (plus I was a senior and did not want to take another test) and hastily applied to programs that did not require those scores. I found two programs, one in Ohio and one in my hometown. I applied to both, was accepted, and decided to travel to the mid-west for the program that was ranked in the top five, offered a much better assistantship, and a stipend where I would actually be making money while I was in school. In hindsight, I rushed the decision.
For starters I loathed Ohio, it was a completely different world, there multiple signs on the side of the road offering to buy animal clippings (I called they used them to stuff pillows), the only attraction in town was a Wal-Mart, and the nearest city was 45 minutes away. I was driving the minivan my parents gave me as graduation present back to Connecticut nearly every weekend to see my girlfriend and fraternity brothers still at Quinnipiac. The program was theory based and I was used to a hands on production major, I couldn’t understand why we were talking about how to work with students rather than actually working with students, I was struggling academically getting my first F on a paper ever, and having to drop the same class two semesters in a row. I was a thousand times more unhappy then I was when I was in L.A. but was far to proud to tell anyone, I had never failed at anything and thought I could tough it out for the next two years. (I assume you are asking- “Cameron, I thought this blog was supposed to be about why we should get into Student Affairs?” Well it is, as we used to say in media production here is the up-arc for our main character.)
During a visit back to the east coast I ran into a friend who was at the University of Rhode Island in a similar masters program, she said they were going to have a graduate assistantship working with the fraternities and sororities open for the upcoming year and that I should apply. I thought nobody transferred graduate schools (I was right, I still have not heard of anyone else who has) so I was hesitant, but I could not stay in Ohio any longer and felt an enormous weight lifted off my chest when I found I had been accepted to URI.
I spent the next three years living near the beach, doing quite well in classes, and genuinely being happy again. This is not to say this is some hipster-blog-Cinderella-slipper-story where the Chuck Taylor, black, one-star, high top fit and I was transformed into this prince of Student Affairs. In my seven years working in Student Affairs I constantly find myself questioning my role and fit. However, the opportunity to work in an ever changing, fast-paced environment; to participate on Arrupe immersion programs, attend Kairos, Halftime, and 48 Hours; and develop genuine relationship with students and truly help along their journey here is unbelievably rewarding and honestly brings me joy.
Cameron R. Smith
Assistant Director for the First Year Area, Office of Residential Life
P.S. If you still want to vote for the world’s cutest puppy check out http://puppywar.com/
P.P.S. If you are the first person to email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) saying you read this whole thing I will give you a copy of FIFA ’13 or two tickets to the Twilight movie.