Careers in Student Affairs: Joyce Wang

Stumbling upon Student Affairs

I have found myself numerous times talking to students about my college experience. One of the greatest part of my job at the Office of AHANA Student Programs and in Student Affairs is being able to draw upon my experiences as a college student and use it to help a student put things in perspective. Whenever I share with them how I came to this career, I can see the wheels in their minds churn as they process the fact that I was never sure. As much as people may desire to be 100% on something, there is a certain amount of relief when you hear someone else had also stuggled and stumbled through life.

At the start of my senior year, I was on a very straight and narrow path of applying to Ph.D. programs in sociology. I had thoroughly enjoyed the sociology courses I took as an undergraduate, had done independent research, and figured the next logical step would be to continue along towards a Masters and then a Ph.D. degree. A few weeks of looking into various MA/Ph.D. programs in sociology and it dawned upon me that this was not exactly what I wanted at that point in my life. Eventually, yes. Right now? Not really. As I thought more about it, I could not imagine myself walking down this path so soon. The more I thought about it, the more I panicked. My straight and narrow path all but disappeared under my feet. I was back at square one with no idea where else to begin and it was already mid-October of my senior year.

The day after my “revelation,” I stumbled into my mentor’s office with my worries tumbling from my lips. I was in a crisis of uncertainty and unknown. My mentor did what she does best, listen and then, asked me a simple question, “what do you want to do?” Dumbfounded, my mentor had to leave me in her office while I pondered. I pondered until she returned and repeated her question. I pointed to her and back to myself and replied, “this,” explaining that I wanted to talk to people, particularly moments when uncertainty weighed down, and help them help themselves find the answers, or at least process these moments. “Well,” she replied, “did you know you can get a degree in that? It’s called higher education…”

Whenever I share this experience with students, particularly seniors looking for answers or looking for reassurances, I recount the following days, weeks, and months after that conversation with my mentor. It was one of my most reflective self-journeys I had ever taken in my life. Answering that simple question, researching programs for higher education, editing my resume, and writing personal statements, I found myself analyzing and rediscovering who I am, who I wanted to be, and how the next leg of my life would be a part of that. After all is said and done, now I do exactly what I had told my mentor I wanted to do, toss the same question back for my students to ponder as they stumble into my office.

Joyce Wang
Program Administrator, Office of AHANA Student Programs
M.A. Higher Education Administration, Boston College, 2011
B.A. Sociology, University at Buffalo, 2009

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