Where are they Now: Catching up with our 2015 Cohort Part 1

We have come to the end of the semester, and our second-year cohort members are well on their way in the job search: applying, interviewing, and preparing for the next step after graduation. As we are excited for this year’s graduating cohort and all that is before them, we thought we might send some encouragement by highlighting the 2015 HESA graduates as they are finishing their first year post-graduation at various institutions across the country.

We asked each of the recent graduates to share with us (1) a description of what they are up to now, and (2) how they feel HESA prepared them for their current roles. Their insights and information were so good, we decided not to edit for length, and are compiling their responses into two posts. Below is part one!

2015 HESA Grads, we are so proud of you and excited for all you are doing! Thank you for sharing your stories with us!

Baylor Higher Education and Student Affairs Graduates 2015

Cara Allen: Graduate Research Assistant & Ph.D. Candidate—Baylor University

I am continuing my studies in higher education as a doctoral student in the Higher Education Studies and Leadership program at Baylor. In addition to my coursework, much like the HESA program, I also have an apprenticeship on campus. I work as a research assistant for Perry Glanzer and Nathan Alleman. In my role, I assist the faculty with their research projects from brainstorming ideas, collecting and analyzing data, to writing articles for conferences or publication.  I also edit book reviews, articles, chapters, and books that they are working on. I have been fortunate to gain insights into the many facets of faculty life under two wonderful mentors.

My time in HESA not only helped prepare me academically for doctoral work, but it also gave me the tools I needed to be successful in my apprenticeship. While in HESA, I was engaged in a writing intensive program that challenged me to think critically about connecting concepts and material and gave me the opportunity to write a thesis, which has equipped me for my role as a researcher and aspiring scholar.

Misha Cooper: Career Consultant—University of Tennessee, Knoxville

I meet one-on-one with students specifically from the College of Business on many different career development topics. I help them with internship and full-time job search, résumé critiques, mock interviews, networking skills, graduate education navigation and more. I also teach two classes and plan workshops centered on career development topics.

HESA helped me to prepare for my position because I was able to have an assistantship in the Career & Professional Development office during my second year in the program. Through the assistantship I learned and gained many of the relevant skills that I now use on the job!

Joshua Donath: Community Coordinator—University of Cincinnati

I work alongside a Residence Hall Director to manage a hall of 800 first-year students.  My primary responsibilities are to supervise 14 Desk Assistants, half of the RAs, and the six executive members of Calhoun Hall Government.  I’ve also been serving on our department’s Assessment Committee and Education Committee, where I’m working to establish the university’s first Living-Learning Program.  Additionally, I’ve had the opportunity to create some videos for our RA Recruitment as well as for the Vice President of Student Affairs.

One of the ways HESA prepared me to enter my first professional role was in challenging me to think about campus culture in a variety of ways.  Both in Culture and Organization in Higher Education and my work in the Academy for Leader Development, I was equipped with the tools to navigate a university as large as UC with 40,000 students.  My experience in HESA has been especially instrumental in navigating campus partnerships and understanding how to work in an environment shaped by large initiatives that are unique to the university such as their extensive coop program.

Melissa McLevain: Residential Learning Coordinator (RLC)—Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University

I oversee a residential building of close to 1,100 first-year students, which means I wear a variety of different hats depending on the day. Primarily, I work with another RLC to co-supervise 29 Resident Advisors. I also advise the Pritchard Hall Council, comprised of 4 executive team members and 4 community members. Alongside our two student leadership teams, I work to create opportunities for our students to learn outside of the classroom. Additionally, I serve as a Conduct Hearing Officer and respond to facility and maintenance concerns in Pritchard.

My HESA experience prepared me to think critically about my students and their experience at Virginia Tech. I often catch myself trying to imagine how various members of my cohort would respond to a difficult issue, and their perspectives inform my thinking. My HESA experience also prepared me to articulate what higher education means to me and what I hope it will mean for my students.

 Gabriela Olaguibel: Success Coach for First Generation Students—McLennan Community College

Basically, I’m one of several success coaches, and I am specifically in charge of the First Generation Scholars Program, which involves a scholarship, funded by the Rapoport Foundation.  I work with the two cohorts in this program, which is a lot of fun.  I help recruit and select the incoming students, while working with the students in both cohorts: the first-year students are adapting to college, and the second-years are applying to transfer to other institutions to earn their bachelor’s degree.

I appreciate HESA’s focus on researching different student demographics; I was not a first generation college student yet this is the demographic I primarily work with, and even as I’ve learned a lot on the job, I appreciate that I was familiar with the challenges and common factors of first generation college students.  I was also already familiar with MCC, in part because of HESA’s focus on us exploring and learning from all types of higher education institutions.  I also learned a lot from being a GA in Wellness, because of the holistic focus on students and the opportunity to supervise and mentor student interns.  These are some aspects of HESA, among others, that have contributed my doing well in my current position.  So, thank you!

Kristin Short: Senior Coordinator for Student Activities—University of Georgia

In this role I oversee programming related to campus traditions including but not limited to the official UGA Homecoming celebration, WUOG 90.5 FM (26,000 watt student-run radio station), Pandora Yearbook, UGA Night at Six Flags, and all collaborative events between Student Affairs and Athletics such as Film on the Fifty, Basket Bash, and pep rallies.  On a day-to-day basis, this job includes supervising two Graduate Assistants, co-advising about 30 student leaders, negotiating contracts, coordinating event logistics, communicating with campus collaborators, and keeping tabs on four separate budgets.

HESA prepared me for this role in so many ways… HESA courses taught me to think critically about the politics of an institution and to recognize how systems can be oppressive to certain groups of people even when you don’t intend for them to be.  My apprenticeship in the Counseling Center taught me to see things through a lens of equity and to meet students where they are in their developmental process.  My practicums with the Greek Leader Retreat and the NEDA Walk gave me practical experience in event planning, budgeting, fundraising, entertainment, and curriculum development.  Each of these experiences contributed to me being hired at UGA, and have helped me achieve the high standard that was set for me immediately upon entering this position.  It has been a crazy ride so far, but I love it and could not be more pleased about where my Baylor degree has led me!


Written by Lisa Perry, 2nd Year Student


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Choosing a Graduate Program

Written by Sarah Madsen, 1st Year HESA Student 

Choosing a Graduate Program 

At this point in your student affairs journey, you’ve accomplished so much, from researching graduate programs and sending in applications to visiting campuses and interviewing for apprenticeships. This process is time-consuming and intense, but completely worth it in the end when you enroll in a program that fits your educational, vocational, and relational needs! Personally, my graduate school decision process was lengthy. My strengths include learner and intellection, so I spent countless hours learning about the schools from which I had received acceptance letters and thinking about what my life would look like at those schools. As you enter into your own decision-making process, here are some topics to intentionally think about and discuss that may aid in your discernment.


Where is your potential institution located? How will this location affect you? You will be living on or near your campus for nearly two years, so make sure your new city can serve your interests and needs! Moving from Malibu to Waco was a big transition for me, but I love everything Waco (and Texas!) has to offer, like a variety of shops and restaurants, major highways and airports that make travel easy, and an inexpensive cost of living.


Mural in downtown Waco 

Cost of the Program

Graduate school can be a large financial investment, so consider how your potential institution is investing in you. At Baylor, the HESA tuition is fully covered and we receive a bi-weekly stipend. Personally, this investment was a deciding factor in my decision to attend Baylor – I couldn’t pass on an institution that was so invested in my graduate education.

Academic Rigor

What do the programs you are considering focus on academically? Baylor’s curriculum emphasizes student development, administrative theory, and faith integration, so I know I am receiving a holistic, well-rounded education through the HESA program. In thinking about program curricula, you may also consider academic standards, comprehensive exams, and required program units.

Apprenticeships and Practicums

Apprenticeships can be a major part of your graduate education, as they provide practical work experience, afford mentorship and networking opportunities, and shape your vocation. At Baylor, all HESA students complete a 22-month apprenticeship with a department on campus. In my apprenticeship with the department of Wellness, I have the opportunity to plan campus-wide events, work with student leaders, and complete assessment projects – all valuable experiences that influence my studies and my calling.

In addition to apprenticeships, consider the opportunities you may have to complete practicums within other departments at your future institution. Practicums also provide influential experiences and connections, thus adding to your overall graduate education. At Baylor, HESA students have the opportunity to tailor any number of practicums to fit their educational or vocational goals.


How many students attend your potential institution? How many students will be in your classes? Is the program a cohort model? Reflection on your personal interests, learning style, and relational needs may help you select a program that serves you best. I previously attended Pepperdine University – a school of 5,000 students – so I was excited to experience Baylor, which boasts more than 16,000 students. I love going to football games, partaking in campus traditions like Christmas on Fifth, and getting to know students from all walks of life, so Baylor is the perfect size for me.

I also truly enjoy learning alongside my cohort. The cohort model encourages community and dialogue, and gives Baylor HESA students the opportunity to share their past and current experiences with their peers on a weekly basis. Most of my favorite Waco memories from the past year include my cohort!


Cohort Christmas mug exchange 

Thesis 0r Capstone

In the final year of your graduate program, you will either complete a thesis or capstone course. At Baylor, the choice is yours. I personally appreciate this level of customization within the HESA program, since I can tailor my educational experience to fit my academic and vocational goals. In addition to completing a thesis or capstone course in your final semester, Baylor HESA students travel to the NASPA Annual Conference – which will be celebrating its 100th Anniversary in 2018 in Philadelphia. These experiences prepare students for their futures as scholar-practitioners, so be sure to consider what your future program offers.

Faith and Learning

How does your potential institution integrate faith and learning? At Baylor, the Christian faith is interwoven in classes, apprenticeships, and daily experiences. I appreciate this integration, as it allows me to learn and grow as a whole person – not just as a student – in a supportive, caring environment. Baylor’s Christian character was another deciding factor for me when selecting a graduate program, and I am thankful to study at an institution that values both faith and academics.


Discernment is not always a simple process, but intentional thought and discussion can aid in your decision-making. Over the next few weeks, I pray you have the time and strength to carefully consider your future as a graduate student. I also pray peace and affirmation over your decision, whatever that may be.

Please reach out to a current HESA student or faculty member should you have any questions in the coming days. We are more than happy to help in any way that we can!


Written by Sarah Madsen, 1st Year HESA Student 


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Tips for Interview Placement 2016

Hello all! We are now only two short weeks away from Interview Placement 2016. Interview Placement is an exciting time where you will learn more about Baylor, the HESA program, and life in Waco. We want you to have a great experience during your visit, so here are a few tips about Interview Placement from current HESA students:

252900Megan McNeese, second-year, Graduate Hall Director for Campus Living & Learning

Stay rested the week before; it’s important to come energized! It’s a busy weekend with plenty to process. Explore Waco if you have a little extra time. Think ahead about questions you want to ask and ask a variety of people your questions, so you get a more holistic perspective. Figure out your must-haves in a graduate program, or at least a priority list. Enjoy the journey, and be open to things that may surprise you!

254012Kayla Molnar, first-year, Graduate Apprentice for the Fine Arts Living-Learning Center

Don’t be afraid to ask questions! Now is the time! So many people are willing and want to help you answer your questions. Don’t panic if you don’t see your top five choices of apprenticeships on your interview list for Friday. Look on the bright side!  You may be interviewing for an apprenticeship that you will really end up enjoying and had never considered before. If you still want to interview with your top five choices, you’ll have time during breakfast and lunch, although these interviews will be much shorter, but you have to be willing to approach the supervisors in charge of that apprenticeship during the opportunities you are given! It is a little intimidating, but sometimes you just have to go for what you want! Enjoy the experience!

254005Sierra Valdivia, first-year, Graduate Apprentice for Multicultural Affairs

Have an open mind about all your interviews, even if you are unsure about interviewing with a particular department. As you prepare for interviews here and at other institutions, you will naturally have “favorites”. Favorite job descriptions, favorite areas, and maybe even favorite people that work for that department.  It’s okay to have those interviews that you are looking forward to (I certainly did), but be sure to soak in all the other interviews as well. You never know when a specific department will have co-workers that you click with or realize you have never even set foot in a specific area but realize it seems interesting. Ask questions if you do not know or understand how a department works! I certainly never realized that I would be working in the Department of Multicultural Affairs since before graduate school I had zero experience, but I have certainly learned a lot and I am truly enjoying my new experience.

254001Billy Baker, first-year, Graduate Apprentice for Spiritual Life

I would advise to not stay up too late chatting with your host the night before interviews. If you are able to stay after the interview placement occurs, do so – it will be a great time to relax and have casual conversation. Take Interview Placement for an incredible experience and not for the competitive nature it may naturally build.

252893Zandra Cook, second-year, Graduate Apprentice for Admissions Visits Experiences

Don’t be afraid to talk to 2nd-year students about their current positions, especially the ones you are interested in or interviewing for! A great time to do this is at Common Grounds on the first night, after dinner. If you do not get assigned to interview with a department you are really interested in, you will still have a chance to talk to them throughout interview weekend. Make a point to seek out the 2nd-year currently working in that department and don’t be afraid to ask them to connect you with their supervisor. You can always speak with those departments during breakfast or lunch on the second day.If you get a chance, take some time to explore Waco with your host or on your own. You may be spending 2 years of your life in this great city, so get to know it!

254009Sarah Madsen, first-year, Graduate Apprentice for Wellness

Check the Waco weather in the days leading up to interview placement, and pack accordingly. Being comfortable, despite the weather, will help you feel more confident during your time here! Talk to your host before coming to interview placement! Your host will be able to answer any of your questions about Baylor, Waco, and the HESA program, and will help to ease any nervousness you have about interviewing. Have an elevator speech ready! Many times during the weekend, you will be asked to share a little bit about yourself. Having a good idea of what to say—where you are from, your undergraduate institution, why you want to pursue this degree, why you are interested in student affairs—will help you feel prepared and will allow potential supervisors to learn a lot about you in a short amount of time. Be flexible! I was asked to interview with a department I did not preference before interview placement, and now I am the GA in that department – loving what I do and who I work with!

254002Jesse Ross, first-year, Graduate Apprentice for New Student Programs

To better prepare myself, once I received my list of the specific apprenticeships I was scheduled to interview for, I made notes about the details of each and the names of supervisors or the people I could be interviewing with. The night before, I sat down with my HESA host and asked him questions about those specific apprenticeships (job description, office dynamic, possible supervisors, and interaction with students). Though my host was a HESA student and only worked in his specific apprenticeship, his year of experience in the HESA program gave him a useful awareness of all the other apprenticeships, which his classmates occupied. This process gave me a better understanding of the different positions and allowed me to come up with more thoughtful and relevant questions to bring up during my interviews.

254007Yolande Graham, first-year, Graduate Apprentice for Campus Living & Learning, Academic Initiatives

Trust the process. You may have interviews for apprenticeship positions you did not rank. Stay calm, keep an open mind and put your best foot forward. You may find that you love one of these positions you didn’t rank more than the ones you did rank. While it is important to seek apprenticeship positions that you are interested in and will be fulfilled by, in the interview process be sure to pay attention to who your supervisor will be. A good supervisor will help you shape the experience you want to have both inside and outside of your apprenticeship.  Remember, you will be working with them for the next two years, so take the time to consider this as you go through your interviews.


Interview Placement 2016 is a glimpse into what your next two years may look like at Baylor and in the HESA program. We want this to be an edifying, enjoyable experience that ultimately informs your graduate school decision. All of us – hosts, HESA students, faculty, staff – are looking forward to interacting with you and answering any and all questions you may have.

These next two weeks are going to fly by so quickly. We are really excited to meet each of you and share our Baylor and HESA experiences. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us or reach out to your host.

Sic ‘Em,

The Baylor HESA Family

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Finding Happiness in HESA

Written by Zandra Cook, 2nd Year HESA Student

Finding Happiness in HESA

It was a hard decision for me personally to return to school after working in the “real world” for three years. I decided to pursue my master’s degree in Higher Education and Student Affairs though because I fell in love with working with students at the college level. My undergraduate experience at Baylor was extremely influential in who I am today, and I wanted the opportunity to touch students’ lives in the way that I had been impacted by other student affairs professionals.

After being in the HESA program for about 17 months now, and as a second-year in the program, I have come to learn that it is extremely important to find things that make you happy while trekking your way through this 22-month journey. Outside of pursuing my studies, I have found comfort in three things: my apprenticeship, a practicum I love, and my amazing friend group.

Finding Your Fit in Your Apprenticeship

I can promise you it is never a dull day in my life at the office. I currently work as the Graduate Apprentice in the Office of Undergraduate Admissions Visit Experience at the Visitor Center on campus. In the midst of serving over 55,000 visitors that come to visit Baylor each year, I have the fun, crazy, and sometimes overwhelming opportunity to supervise about 70 student workers that give tours of Baylor. In our tiny little office, I have had the chance to develop lasting relationships with not only all 70 of my students, but also strong bonds with some of the colleagues I work with. Over the past year and a half, these relationships have been integral to my experiences in my apprenticeship. These professionals have allowed me to grow in various areas and have believed in me enough to allow me to coordinate and oversee events that host over 250 prospective students and their families.

In working with my students, I have also seen how being a graduate student can help you become a role model for undergraduates. My students often ask about what I’m studying or what I want to do with my degree. Sometimes I even see the awe in their eyes as they realize that I work in the office 20 hours a week and I take nine hours of classes per semester. More recently, many of them have come to me for advice about taking the GRE or applying to graduate school as well. Being able to answer questions for them, while allowing them to gain experience by working in our office, has been a fun and rewarding part of my apprenticeship. I have been able to serve in a mentor-like role for some of them, while I have found guidance and advice from my colleagues throughout my own professional journey.


Finding a Practicum To Fulfill Your Interests

Outside of my apprenticeship, it has been important for me to find a practicum that would complement my HESA academic experience. Even though my apprenticeship has allowed me to develop many of my professional skills and competencies, I was also interested in finding a practicum experience that would build my resume while simultaneously be fulfilling and exciting. I have been lucky enough to find just that in a practicum experience.

Over the past semester, I have also been working as the Program Coordinator for the Engineering and Computer Science (ECS) Learning Resource Center, as well as the Program Coordinator for The Power of Two Mentor Program. Under the supervision of Emily Sandvall, Associate Director for Undergraduate Programs in the School of ECS, and working alongside one of my cohort classmates, Allison Everett, we have been able develop these two great resources for ECS students at Baylor. The Learning Resource Center is an area that has been created for ECS students to have a collaborative study space, access to a computer lab, and the opportunity to take advantage of ECS tutoring. Along with opening this space, the three of us have also built a new program for first-year ECS students. Through this mentor program, called The Power of Two, first-year ECS students who do not currently live in Teal Residential College on campus (which is specifically for ECS majors) can receive mentorship from an upper-division ECS student as they navigate this challenging major during their first year at Baylor. We have even received a grant from Halliburton to fund this initiative. Additionally, the faculty we are working with have applied for a $1 million grant that we are hoping to receive!

Overall, I have been so fortunate to find a practicum that is not only fulfilling, but it has also allowed me to gain experience in areas that are not covered in my apprenticeship—such as programming, learning how to building a program from the ground-up, and having the opportunity to develop faculty relationships outside of the HESA department. I am so glad I decided to participate in a practicum experience during my time in the HESA program, and I would recommend to everyone pursuing this degree. Practicums can be tailored to your needs and wants, and they provide ample opportunities for you to work with other student affairs professionals on campus that you may not have met or developed relationships with otherwise. It is also important to remember that you can do a practicum in almost area you are interested in! I also have a love for first-generation students. In order to gain some experience with them, I reached out to First In Line, which is Baylor’s first-generation program. After working with them to develop an experience that would beneficial to me, I have decided that I am going to begin doing a practicum with their department in the spring by co-teaching a transitional class for transfer, first-generation students. If I had not sought out the opportunity though, I would have never been given this great chance to focus on an area I’m interested in!

Find Friends in Your Cohort

Beginning our HESA journey, we were constantly told that we were going to meet some of our best friends in the program’s cohort. I never believed this statement when I first began. I often thought, “Yeah, I’m going to make some good friends, but we’re only going to be together for less than two years.” Little did I know that some of these people were absolutely amazing human beings. Through HESA, I have made some wonderful friends and I am so thankful that they are in my cohort. Sometimes people may advise you to make friends outside of your cohort, but I’m thankful my small group of cohort friends can relate to everything I’m going through. Not only do we text each other during late-night paper writing sessions, but sometimes we cry from laughing too much, provide much-needed advice in times of struggle, and even spend entire weekends hanging out together! They are my people and I am eternally grateful I have found friends in my cohort. I advise anyone in this program to make an effort to develop friendships within their cohort. Having others that you can truly relate to in your struggles, joys, and stress is extremely beneficial in being successful in the HESA program. And believe me, after 22 months together, it’s going to be hard to say goodbye come May.


As I reflect back on my experience in the HESA program so far, I am grateful that I have developed professional relationships with my colleagues in my apprenticeship, that I have found multiple practicums that have provided me with new skills and experiences, and that I have fostered real friendships in my cohort. If you can find a way to incorporate all of these elements into your HESA experience, I can guarantee you that your time at Baylor will be much richer!



Written by Zandra Cook, 2nd Year HESA Student

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Apprenticeship Highlight: Katy Flinn, Program Coordinator for Baylor & Beyond LLC

Written by Katy Flinn, HESA 2nd-year student

North Russell

My undergraduate institution did not have living-learning centers (LLCs), but I was familiar with the idea. Simply put, a living-learning center is a place where students with a common interest live together. This can be anything from engineering to honors to outdoor adventure, and the intention is for programming, faculty involvement, and organic student interaction to extend learning outside of the classroom into the very places students live.

I am the Program Coordinator for the Baylor & Beyond Living-Learning Center, a global-focused LLC formerly known as the Global Community LLC. Our goal is to help students get plugged in at Baylor and to become knowledgeable about all of the resources and opportunities available to them here, but not to limit them to that. We want students to think beyond Baylor in some way, whether that be through service, language, global politics, or any of our other focuses.

I absolutely love this position! For one, it gives me a place to express my passion for language, travel, and other cultures alongside students with similar interests. Furthermore, it is exceptionally multifaceted. Where some apprenticeships are very focused in depth in one area, I am getting an array of experiences, including working closely with Campus Living & Learning, academic affairs, and student activities. See below for some of the highlights.

Advising the leadership council
This is easily one of my favorite things that I do. We have a group of 13 leaders who plan events for the whole community. We did a leadership retreat at the beginning of the semester and meet every week. It’s a great group of students who keep me laughing, and I am honored to walk alongside them as they grow in leadership and make a difference in their community.

Leadership team

From coordinating large-scale dinners for 260 people, to field trips to a mission trip interest meeting, I get to see all aspects of the planning and executing process. Room reservations, catering, ordering tables and chairs, coordinating student volunteers, and more – I will have no shortage of programming experience walking out of this apprenticeship.

Homecoming Parade

I was a journalism and mass communication major, and I did not imagine how much I would put that degree to use in this job. Now, this is not a necessary part of the job, but my supervisor knows that I enjoy it and has allowed me to run with this. I send out a weekly email with highlights for the week, I make posters for our events, and I manage the website.

I had the rare privilege of seeing the community transition from 80 students to 260 students, and we worked hard to get those numbers. I participated in preview days on Baylor’s campus and made pitches in front of hundreds of prospective students and their families. I have given tours of the hall. I went to admissions events in Houston and Austin. We sent targeted e-mails to students who we thought would be a good fit for our community.

Baylor & Beyond

ResLife, or as Baylor calls it, Campus Living & Learning, is my first love in higher education. I have been able to bring aspects that I enjoy about it into this position. For one, I had the opportunity to read applications and place students in housing assignments in the hall. But what I love the most about ResLife is the opportunity to get to know students on a deeper level and “do life” alongside them. Every Tuesday and Wednesday I spend two hours in the hall having “Tea Time with Katy,” in which I sit and talk to students and hear about their lives. Some of my favorite moments of the week and my job happen during those tea times. I also have shared meals with students, ran the Baylor Line with students, and even camped out at the stadium with students to get on ESPN’s College Gameday.

Our LLC is sponsored through the Modern Languages and Cultures Department, and I have gotten to know many faculty members. I work closely with two of them, and have had interactions with dozens of others. Not everyone gets to work with faculty, but it is a privilege to delve deeper into this side of campus life. We work with faculty to bridge the gap between classroom learning and extracurricular learning.

These are just some of the things my job entails. No week ever looks the same in my position, but I love it. I have had many incredible opportunities over the last year and a half as a program coordinator. My supervisor has allowed me to tailor my own experience and allowed me to focus on the aspects of the job that I wanted to grow in. She has also been supportive of my new ideas and helped design the experience that I wanted, as well as pushed me to try new things (like keeping the budget). I am incredibly thankful for such a well-rounded experience!

Written by Katy Flinn, 2nd-year HESA student


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When Grad School Feels Like a Fire Hydrant

Written by Amiee Brassart

For obvious reasons, my life changed in August of 2014 when I began my HESA journey. Being the undergrad girl that never pulled all-nighters, the girl who would always enthusiastically start a planner but neglected it towards the end of the semester, and the girl who believed in the 25-minute “study then break” idea but never truly followed through, graduate school definitely woke me up! In our position as both a Baylor student and a Baylor professional, our calendars can at times be classified as tiring. You know the phrase, “It was like drinking out of a fire hydrant”? As I have reflected on my own “fire hydrant” experience, all of the “stuff” I had to do wasn’t the fire hydrant. I realized that I was the fire hydrant; not calm, but gushing and feeling like I was giving, giving, giving with no end in sight. It seemed like responsibilities just would not stop gushing. I mean, really, how much can fire hydrants hold? A lot.

Just the other day, I was driving down South Valley Mills, a road you will come to know very well if you like going to Target or the movie theater. At a red light I saw a fire hydrant spewing into the road. Beginning to panic about the future of that intersection, I remembered that it would be taken care of, and it was.

Feeling like this during my first year of grad school was exhausting and I felt like I could not be sustained – until a few things changed. I built a strong relationship with my supervisor, got out into Waco, and built good friendships within my cohort. Here is my advice to be on top of any potential “fire hydrant” gushing that may happen to you:

  1. Build that relationship with your supervisor that is deeper than just checking things off of the work to-do list and having small talk at programs or events. Before my 1-on-1s, I would write out an agenda. Each agenda had an organized list of the points I needed to have addressed regarding work, but the very first bullet point was always “catching up,” “how are we doing,” or something else that would get us chatting about life outside of the job. That included school for both of us. (She is in the process of getting her PhD. YAY, Jasmine!) Sometimes, that first bullet took thirty minutes. We might have gone quickly through the work points, but eventually we got there. I also felt more supported and equipped to do my job because I felt known by my supervisor as Amiee and not merely as her GA. I also now know her as Jasmine, not simply as my supervisor.
  2. Get out and explore Waco (or wherever post-grad takes you!). My parents came to help move me in, and they studied several guides of the best spots in Waco for us to visit. We visited a few great places that are still on my frequent list, but then they left and I was on my own to venture out into my new home. Do it. Whether you are by yourself or with people. Ask colleagues in your department to offer suggestions. The weekends can be set aside for homework, but you should also include something that will lift you up after the busy week has passed. If you are worried about venturing out by yourself, read my third point.
  3. Get to know your cohort! You will be with them for 22 months going through the same highs and potential some of the same lows. For the first couple of months, I advise proposing opportunities to hang out as a whole group. I know our cohort benefitted from this greatly. Naturally, you will click with certain people and those friendships will begin to form. That is okay. The next two years are simultaneously going to feel long yet fly by. You need individuals you know will help refresh you and encourage you forward. Just remember that it is okay to not be best friends with everyone; however, I still believe that making multiple opportunities to connect as a whole group will set your cohort up for success!

I have just shared three things that helped me tame the sensation that my grad school life was a constant fire hydrant gush. My hope is that you take away an understanding that grad school will be hard, it will challenge you, but that you have all of the resources you need to make it through- not just surviving, but thriving. My advice to ease the waters of grad school? Befriend your supervisor, get out in Waco, and build relationships with your cohort. That, my friends, will make all the difference!


Written by Amiee Brassart, 2nd-year HESA student


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The Idea of Work-Life Balance and Why We Need to Let Go of It

Written by Jessica Roshak

As a graduate student working in the Student Activities (SA) Office, we talk a lot about work-life balance. This is a topic of great importance in the field of higher education and student affairs (HESA), especially as many of us are very passionate about our work, reaching above and beyond our job descriptions. Though this is not a bad thing, it can cause us—and potentially our supervisors—to forget that we are real people juggling responsibilities and identity roles outside of our jobs each and every day. I have heard countless professionals discuss their experience with being off-balance and the practices that they have implemented since then to ensure it never happens again, and I have read articles about how to balance your life, but no one ever says what work-life balance really is. I would say that this is because there is no such thing.

When most people think of balance, they see a scale with two sides. If our lives are in balance, we are putting forth an equal amount of effort into our work and into our personal lives, causing both sides of the scale to become even with one another. This ideal is impossible and we need to stop telling our colleagues and friends to strive for this. Dan Thurmon, professional speaker and former acrobat, has another idea: living off-balance on purpose.

In his TED talk entitled, “Off Balance on Purpose: The Future of Engagement and Work-Life Balance,” he says, “Life balance is a trait that is intriguing and desirable, but also completely unrealistic…. We are constantly making readjustments, whether it is obvious or not… [and] we will never achieve balance.”

He says that we have to be off-balance in order to learn and grow, comparing the idea of balance to juggling. When he was a boy learning the act, he got the hang of juggling three balls at a time. Though this was an accomplishment, he wanted more. He decided to try four, but was very unsuccessful. Why? Because he was continuing to use the same pattern, though the task was different. This is true for us as student affairs professionals as well.

After a while, we get stuck in routines. Then, when something new gets added onto our plates—a new task, position, or issue to deal with—we try to go about our routine in the same way, thinking that we will have just as much success. Maybe something happened in your personal life such as a marriage or the birth of a child. Life has now given you another challenge, more to worry about, so it is critical that you change your pattern.

This leads to the five areas of life that we are constantly juggling: Work/school, relationships, health, spiritual growth, and personal interests. These areas are going to overlap from time to time and he argues that the more that they do, the better off you are. “A connected life pattern will help you to sustain those twists and detours as you move through life,” he contends.

Each of the five areas that we are “juggling” interact with one another constantly.

The diagram below shows just how they do so. As you can see, the five areas create the pattern of an infinity symbol, representing our infinite potential. There are time when things make sense and fit perfectly and other times when they are not—but that is okay, because each area is still connected.


So how do we make this work in graduate school? Well, this is unique to the individual, but I can tell you how I make it work for me. School/work, relationships, and spiritual growth are all very tightly connected to one another, just based on the nature of the master’s program at Baylor University. Using the cohort model, I see my friends in class three times per week while we discuss how the content we are learning relates to the larger Christian narrative. They are also great study buddies! I balance personal interests and health by getting outside and doing some hiking in our local or state parks (there are a ton of them in Texas!), most often with my husband, which adds in relationships.

The moral of this story is that we need to stop thinking about work-life balance dichotomously—we either have it or we do not. As student affairs professionals, we are jugglers of many roles and responsibilities and need to let go of the idea of work-life balance, striving to live our lives off-balance on purpose.

To watch Dan Thurmon’s TED Talk, click here.


Written by Jessica Roshak, 2nd-year HESA student


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Careers in Student Affairs Month: “Student Affairs Is….”

Written by Yolande Graham

Student Affairs: the most exciting yet ambiguous term to any undergraduate who has just made the decision to pursue a career in it. Once your mind is set on getting a master’s degree in student affairs, one of the most common questions you will hear is, “What will you do with that?” To which we often respond with the cliché phrase, “work with college students!” This was my experience, one that I am sure is common to many who select this path less chosen (if I may borrow a phrase from Robert Frost).

Student affairs encompasses so many different areas that it is hard to give a single definition that does the field justice. I will define it as “any area within a college or university that has to do with the development of college students.”

Development is a word you must get used to if you plan to get a master’s degree in student affairs. In class we are always looking at how students are developing. Are they following Erikson’s stages of development? Are they where they need to be developmentally in Chickering’s seven vectors (which will become your best friends by the time you are about five weeks into your master’s program…especially at Baylor!)? We look at different frames that can help us to understand how varying college campuses can affect student development and institutional functioning. How do human resource considerations, structural facets, institutional politics, or symbolic acts and events effect students?  We even spend time looking at how higher education itself developed throughout its history.  It is all about development.

As I have come to see in my short time at Baylor thus far, student affairs is all about development. In our classes we are developing our skills and understanding so we can apply what we learn to our current and future interactions with students and to our apprenticeships. We are developing the ability to look at our experiences as guides for the way we work in the university setting. We are developing as professionals and as educators, so that we can help those we work with to develop in their own capacities.

I am one of the graduate apprentices for Campus Living & Learning for Academic Initiatives. I work with my supervisor on matters related to program directors for Baylor’s eleven Living Learning Programs (LLPs) as well as with Baylor’s thirteen Faculty-in-Residence (FIRs). In my specific apprenticeship, I do not often work directly with students, which was a little disappointing to me at first. In spite of this, my position has allowed me to get a behind-the-scenes look at what goes into the programming, administration, and interactions that shape students’ experiences in the residence halls at Baylor. I know that everything I am learning in this position will be applicable to my work no matter what path of student affairs I choose to take.

Student affairs is an ever-changing field, working to meet the needs of every student who enters the higher education system. Good student affairs professionals and educators are continuously working to assist, challenge and inspire students wherever they are at in their journey.

This is what student affairs is to me.

Written by Yolande Graham, Baylor HESA 1st-year student


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A Taste of Waco

Over the last year I’ve been really lucky to have so many friends and family come visit me in Waco. With every visitor, I’ve tried to put together a rough itinerary of places to go and places to eat. Here are some of the places that have made it on nearly every list. Enjoy!


Vitek’s is one of the best BQQ places in Waco and its convenient location near campus and general ambience can’t be beat. I’ve never had anything I didn’t like from Vitek’s and every person I’ve taken there has loved the truly Texan BBQ. Although everything is good, you can never go wrong with a Gut Pack (their version of a Frito Pie) and a Dr Pepper.


Location: 1600 Speight Avenue


I’ve intentionally taken every visitor to George’s simply because it is your quintessential Waco/Baylor watering hole. It’s been around since the 1930’s and the specialties keep customers coming back. Some new items were just added to the menu this summer but, like Vitek’s, the ambience is what makes George’s truly unique. Tip: if you’re going during busier hours, definitely make a reservation!


Location: 1925 Speight Avenue

 Café Cappuccino

Voted Waco’s best brunch spot every year since 2006, Café Cappuccino has something for everyone in need of a hearty breakfast. Their menu is incredibly expansive for both breakfast and lunch but their breakfast items are what they’re known for. If you’re stuck between getting eggs or pancakes, go for the eggs because you get a pancake on the side for free with most of their dishes!


Location: 100 North 6th Street

*There are two other locations in Waco but the one downtown is my fave.

 Katie’s Frozen Custard

There are lots of frozen yogurt places in town and Blue Bell ice cream is always in stock at HEB, but you can only find Katie’s Frozen Custard in Waco and it occupies the Waco frozen custard market for a reason. Katie’s Cyclones in particular are amazing! I especially can’t wait for their seasonal pumpkin pie Cyclone.

Katies Custard

Location: 602 Valley Mills Drive

There are A LOT of other noteworthy Waco restaurants but I wanted to include some fun activities to do while killing time in-between meals 😉 Here are some fun things to do in Waco!

The Baylor Marina

The Baylor Marina is the place to go if you’re looking for fun activities on the water. Baylor students can rent kayaks, canoes, stand-up paddleboards, and sailboats for free and visitor passes are only $5. The location of the marina also allows for amazing views of McLane Stadium from the water.



Location: 1512 University Parks Drive

Cameron Park

This park is the second largest city park in the country (Central Park in NYC currently holds the top spot) and there are tons of ways to utilize this great Waco treasure! There are lots of hiking, biking, and running trails. There are also numerous picnic spots, some great lookout points, and the Cameron Park Zoo!

Cameron Park

More information: http://www.waco-texas.com/cms-cameronpark/

Dr Pepper Museum

If it is just too hot outside, head downtown to explore the Dr Pepper Museum. This museum tells the story of Dr Pepper and its historic roots in Waco. I had no idea so much went into the history of Dr Pepper and the adjoined old-time soda shop is really cool!

DP Musuem

Location: 300 South 5th Street

Explore Campus!

There is so much to do and see on Baylor’s beautiful and historic campus! Walk around the Sub and grab a Dr Pepper Float if it’s Dr Pepper Hour. Check out the bears, our live mascots, in their habitat right next door. Head over to Pat Neff and walk down Founder’s Mall. Take a picture with the Judge Baylor statue. See a show in Waco Hall or the Hooper-Shaefer Fine Arts Center. There is seriously so much to do on this campus and friends and family will love seeing where you spend your time!


These are my top 8 restaurants and activities to do with visitors however there’s plenty more I could include! Below are my honorable mentions:


  • Baris III
  • Olive Branch
  • Health Camp
  • Any of the Taqueria El Mexicano locations


  • Spice Village
  • Baylor events like All-University Events, Homecoming, Sing, etc.
  • Lake Waco


Blog post writer extraordinaire: Katie Styles

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Application Process

When you’re applying to something it’s always nice to have a friend on the other side of it – someone to which you can ask all your questions. Since you might not have a friend to ask, I thought I’d try to give you an insider’s scoop with this post.

Researching programs
First comes the researching of the programs. You’re obviously doing a good job of it if you’re reading this post. Kudos. Something I would encourage you to look for is a program that pays your tuition and/or gives you a stipend. Spoiler alert: Baylor does both. I am essentially getting paid to go to grad school. Cool. I actually didn’t do too much on the research side because I knew Baylor was exactly what I was looking for, but I’m sure it’s a good thing to do.

Throwback to high school days and taking the SAT. Thought you were done with all that? Unfortunately, not yet. I used Kaplan to prepare. I bought a book off the Internet that came with an online portion. The online portion was key for practice because the actual test is online. I prepared for a few weeks leading up to the test. I read through the Kaplan book to learn strategies for the vocab and writing sections. I also studied some common vocab words (I didn’t study enough to make this helpful) and roots, prefixes, and suffixes and their meanings (this was more helpful). For math, I made sure I understood all the kinds of questions and did practice problems.

The biggest problem for me on the day of the actual test was running out of time. I didn’t do the practice problems with a timer, so I recommend doing that.

Baylor recommends a combined score of 300. If you don’t score this high, I would encourage you to study up and try to increase your score by taking it again if you have the time. Make sure you send your scores to Baylor!

Recommendation Letters
Make sure to ask for these plenty of time in advance! You need one from an employer, a professor, and a student affairs professional. I got my ResLife supervisor (the one that encouraged me to go into Higher Ed) for my employer, my advisor and the head of my department for the professor, and my SGA supervisor for a student affairs professional. I asked in person then sent my resume with a reminder of when the deadline is! It’s nice to follow up close to the deadline to make sure they have sent them.

My personal statement was 1.5 pages single-spaced. This is probably on the longer side of the acceptable length, but I felt like everything I said was important. I summed up my undergrad experience, explaining how it led me to this point. Then I described why Baylor and why higher ed. There are many good ways to do this portion, so don’t stress. They just want to know your heart, really. They want to see that you’re interested and why you’re interested.

For my resume I ended up actually leaving things off because I didn’t want it to go longer than two pages. I hit all of my work experience and my most prominent involvements, listing the positions of leadership and a brief description of what that entailed. Also, don’t forget to send your transcripts.

Take note of the priority deadline. Try your hardest to get all your materials in by then.

Phone Interview
This happens anytime between December and January. I was nervous about this because I had never done a phone interview before. I printed out my resume and personal statement and made a list of points I wanted to hit at some point during the interview. It was only 20 minutes long and not scary at all; they are all very nice people. This is a chance for you to share your heart with them. Help them understand why you want this and why Baylor is a good fit for you. Make sure your phone is charged and that you are in a quiet place in which you won’t get interrupted. I tried to jot down some names of people that were there, but the only one I was sure of was Dr. Sriram. I sent him a thank you note after the interview.

Interview Weekend
Okay, due to extenuating circumstances I was not able to attend interview weekend, but I’ve heard great things. I did my interviews via phone and Skype. If you receive an invitation to the weekend, you will get a list of potential apprenticeships and will choose your top four. Based on several factors, you may or may not get an interview with all four of your choice picks. In fact you probably won’t. Don’t be heartbroken by this. You’ll have 3-6 interviews then rank your top ones. The supervisors get together and figure out who will go where. They know what they’re looking for more than you know what you want. Everyone in my cohort got a really good fit for his or her apprenticeship. It all works out well.

Hope this helps you understand a little better what the process looks like. If you have more questions or want to know more specifics, I would love few things more than for you to contact me.

I’m a first-year HESA (that’s pronounced “hessa”) student from Georgia that came here fresh out of Samford University, and I’m doing my apprenticeship in the Global Community Living-Learning Center. Email me at Katy_Flinn@baylor.edu.

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