#MakingAnImpact: Being More Than Just A Student Affairs Professional

Hello Readers,

As I am completing my fourth month as a new professional / graduate student, I can’t help but think about what else I can do to impact the community that is Western Kentucky University (WKU). Growing up, I felt that the purpose in life was to get a job and work, however, recently I have been asking myself “How can I be more than just a student affairs professional?” “How can I make an impact here at WKU aside from just going to class and doing the basics of my job?”

Although I am volunteering my time by getting involved in other areas such serving on the conference staff for a upcoming regional conference in 2018 or serving on multiple committees and although I feel I contribute a lot to conversations in my graduate level classes, I still think there is more that I need to be doing.

Being at an institution that allows so much autonomy, I feel that I should be doing more. It’s not everyday that a black, first-generation, LGBT male gets the opportunity to be in this position. To me, its not enough to be in a role and do my job correctly. It’s not enough to work with students that are from the same demographics as myself. If I really want to make an impact here at WKU, I need to do more.

As I was getting to know my colleagues in housing whom have been here for a while, hearing about what they are doing / have done here at Western really has me inspired. I know that I cannot do this just by sitting here. I HAVE to take action. Although I am afraid to fail, I have to take the risk. If there is anything that I have learned from the 24 years of my life, the worst that can happen is that someone will say no or that things will not work out exactly the way that we plan, but you are a failure when you don’t even try.

How do impact your campus as a student affairs professional?

Thanks for reading.

 

 

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Being A POC in IFC

Hello Readers,

During my collegiate experience, I knew I wanted to be part of something that was much more than myself. As a college student, one of the best ways to do this is to join a Greek affiliated organization. As a black student, I was expected to join an organization within the National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC), which houses 5 historically African-American fraternities known as Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc., Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Inc., Iota Phi Theta Fraternity Inc, Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Inc., or Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity Inc. Many and almost all of the members in these organizations are people of color (POC) and were made for us, by us.

However, my undergraduate institution only housed two NPHC fraternities, one of which was removed from campus at the start of my freshman year. The other fraternity just wasn’t the right fit even though I was a legacy (Someone who’s sibling, parent, aunt or uncle were in a sorority or fraternity) and I wanted the entire Greek life in college experience.

I soon found my brotherhood, Alpha Tau Omega (ATO) which is an organization within the North-American Interfraternity Conference also known as the Inter-Fraternity Council (IFC). Although I was one of about three black men in the chapter, my brothers welcomed me with open arms. They didn’t judge me because of the color of my skin or because of what I looked like. What mattered was the values that we all shared. That we all desired to be leaders and to be part of something that is more than ourselves as individuals.

Being a POC in an IFC fraternity, sometimes made me feel like an outsider as well. There are many times when I am confronted by a member of an NPHC fraternity and I am told one of the following: “Is that an academic fraternity?” or “So you too good to be in a black fraternity huh?” or “So you chose them cause you didn’t want to have to put in real work to wear letters”. Or I am confronted by a non-Greek or a member of another organization and they automatically assume that I am a member of an NPHC organization because I am black and then seeing their look of disappointment when I tell them that I’m not.

When this happens, I often ask myself if joining ATO was the right thing. Should I maybe have waited to join an alumni chapter of a NPHC organization? Should I had still tried to make myself fit in to the organization that I was a legacy?

The answer to both of these questions is No. Why? Because no other organizations have helped me become the leader I am like ATO. I love and respect all of my brothers and everyday my days in ATO push me to continue to grow as a leader and a individual.

I understand why an individual would want me to be part of an NPHC organization, however, it just wasn’t in the cards for me. It is 2017 now. Things are different. Not all POCs are in divine 9 organizations and not all non-POCs are in IFC or NPC (National Pan-Hellenic Conference) organizations.

ATO helped mold me into the man and leader that I am today. I will continue to live by our values each day and wear my letters with pride.

-Mike

Time To Move On

Here at Brown, I have truly felt support from my fellow RAs and the RDs that are here for the Pre-College program. They don’t judge me based on my opinion, they are always extremely supportive and what is upsetting is I don’t remember ever genuinely getting this support from my home institution.

I try to serve as a positive example of the leaders that my institution can produce but at the same time, I am starting to realize that most of the people that were supposed to be part of my support system are not really there to support me at all.

broken_heart

There have been people that have told me that I am not capable of achieving my goals of becoming a student affairs professional. Because of some events that occurred during a time in my life where I was really struggling to find myself, it has caused some people to lose faith in my abilities to even go into the field of student affairs. There have been people that have straight up told me “I don’t think you can handle a career in this field”.

For a long time now, this has really held me back from being confident in my abilities to become a future graduate student. Even though I have held several leadership positions on campus and I am currently doing an internship at an Ivy League institution, those words still bother me and hurts me to my soul. I think many of the students that I have been able to support through my leadership really believe in me and I believe that is how I have been able to hold several positions, but not the professional staff. Deep down, I feel like they really don’t think I can do anything right. I feel that they just put up with me because the students picked me not them.

I don’t think I will truly have closure on this until I have walked across the stage and received my degree. I am trying my best to learn from my past experiences and use them to be a better Mike Harris in the long run, but not having any support from the professionals at my institution really make it difficult to keep pushing on.

I just know at the end of the day, I am glad that I have the support that I do have from others that have moved on and a handful of graduate students, a few faculty advisors and professors at my institution that support me. I can’t thank them enough for their help and guidance.

On Track to Washington, DC and Chicago, IL!

Hello Readers!

This month was the deadline for applications to attend the Arkansas Tech University On Track trip and my nerves were through the roof. On Track is a co-curricular experience where there are 7 categories, each containing a series of events based on a particular topic such as career preparation, individual health and wellness, building leadership skills, and getting involved in the Russellville and Arkansas Tech community through service and attending on-campus events, to complete each category, you must attend 3 events then complete a post test.

After completing all 7 categories, a student can apply and interview for a chance to attend an all expenses paid trip to various locations to experience travel, culture, and service.

After applying for the trip once already, I was pretty nervous. This is an experience that I had never had before so I was really hoping that I get to go this time.

On Track Trip

Then, 4 days later it happened, I got the email and I was selected to attend the trip. I am so excited, this will be my first time flying and my first time visiting another state without my family which makes me feel like I am really an adult.