Higher Education & Student Affairs

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Pursuing Challenge and Professional Growth

I imagine my love of student affairs began in a similar place as many of you, at my alma mater – mine being the University of Notre Dame.  After enjoying numerous aspects of my on campus experience, including living on campus in the same hall for four years, and helping with my residence hall freshman orientation, I was both intrigued to know that Student Affairs was a profession, and honored to know that others believed in my abilities to serve in the field.

In keeping with a more traditional path of student affairs, I entered a Higher Education Administration graduate program at the University of Pittsburgh in the fall semester of 2007, immediately after receiving my Bachelor of Arts in Psychology.  My assistantship was to serve as an Assistant Residence Hall Director (along with a full time Residence Hall Director) in a first year community with almost 800 residents, which included all of the first year student athletes.  After learning an immeasurable amount about myself in four years of undergrad, I learned just as much, if not more, in my two years of graduate school.  Exposure to a radically different institutional culture than I had been previously exposed, enabled me to have a more diverse perspective on college student development.  I had an opportunity to engage in student experiences I would have had minimal chance of encountering in both my prior and current institutional environment.  Many of these lessons came in the knowledge of substance and alcohol usage, mental health disorders, and LGBTQ student issues that I lacked a great deal of awareness.   Other lessons came in the form of conflict mediation, and crisis response.  As one that shies away from confrontation, I quickly learned many new approaches to addressing conflict effectively.  More importantly, I learned that student development is much more than leading those that have a desire to be engaged.  In fact, I learned the most from the students that desired my help the least.  After an undoubtedly challenging two years of graduate school, I am extremely thankful for an experience that encouraged me to continue expanding my perspective and understanding of college students.

In the next step of my journey, I was looking for another challenge, with a semblance of familiarity.  The opportunity to serve at Baylor was much more than a traditional Residence Hall Director role.  Currently in my fourth year here as a Residence Hall Director, I have had the opportunity to pursue my own ideas in shaping community in the hall that I serve, I have had the opportunity to work alongside multiple faculty members in strengthening the Living Learning Program housed in my community, I have had the opportunity to work with colleagues and students in areas of student life outside of my department, and I have had numerous opportunities to lead or serve on departmental and division committees, just to name a few.  The semblance of familiarity has been found in the essence of a campus that has the feeling of a home away from home, despite its medium sized student population, and the presence of faith that is most visible in the actions of the students, staff, and faculty that call Baylor home.  In fact, it is the people that I serve alongside that have made me excited to continue serving here at Baylor.

Tiffanie Spencer, Residence Hall Director of Kokernot Hall

scottshepherd • October 15, 2012

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