#DoIBelongHere: Dealing With Imposter Syndrome in Higher Ed

Hello Readers,

It has definitely been a culture shock these past few months being in a different city, and larger university as well as moving into the role of graduate student, supervisor and advisor.

For years, I have often struggled with feeling like an imposter or feeling like I am not good enough. Although people tell me I have done remarkable things such as being the first in my family to graduate from college and continue my education by pursuing a masters degree, there are still times when I cannot help but feel like I don’t belong.

As a person that represents many minority groups as a black, first-generation, LGBTQ+ student that also has an invisible disability, I often find myself in the middle of everything which has its advantages and disadvantages.

Because of these multiple identities, I am able to relate to a variety of people which is very helpful in the realm of student affairs, however, there are often times when I don’t feel like I belong to any of my identity groups because I am that one individual that represents so many of them at once not giving one more meaning than the other because all of them are part of who I am. When I am spending time with any particular group, I often feel like I don’t belong or that I am an imposter.

It can definitely be a challenge when I just feel like I don’t belong at all, but I have to remind myself that everything that I am dealing with is just part of being me. I was admitted into graduate school because the faculty believed in me and believe I have what it takes to be a student affairs professional. WKU hired me because they knew I would be one of the best for the job and that these identities, although rather frustrating at times, they make me, me and I need to embrace these identities to truly be the best me I can be.

Thanks for reading.

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What Is My Next Next?

Hello Readers!

Lately I have been involved in a mentoring program at WKU where I have been asked the following questions:

“What is your next next?” “What are you doing to prepare yourself for more than just now?”

For about two weeks now, I have really been thinking about this and to be honest, I’m not really sure which direction or path I want for my student affairs journey right now.

After being involved in housing for so many years, I know that I am hungry to learn about and get involved other areas that I have passion such as Greek Life, and Student Government.

When thinking about my “next next”, I often look at current job postings for mid-level and senior-level student affairs positions to get an idea of what qualifications I will need to attain the role.

At first I thought to myself “Why am I doing this now, I won’t be job searching for at least another two years?” But then I was thinking about my time in undergrad and high school and how things went a bit smoother because I took the extra time to think about those “next next” steps. I took the time to be a dreamer and think about the future rather than just worrying about the present.

Although I have thought about my next next several times, what has me puzzled is this question: How am I going to get there?

It’s easy for me to say that I want to be an Vice President of Student Affairs at a four-year institution, but when I think about HOW I’m going to get there, my mind is pretty blank. To be honest, I am kind of scared. Being the perfectionist that I am, the thought of not really knowing my next next steps really scares me. Looking at where I am right now, I know I have so much more to learn before I am ready for my “next next”.

I want to feel confident that I am working toward my goal and that my goal is actually attainable for me. I really want to make a difference in the lives of not just students that are from the same demographics myself but also other students that need support. I’m sure whatever my next next is, Coordinator, Assistant Director, Director. In Housing, Greek Life, Student Activities or even Study Abroad, I know I will go in the right direction to succeed in my goal.

Thanks for reading.

 

Conquering Mental Health As A SAPro

Hello Readers,

A friend of mine is doing a podcast talking about mental health and so I wanted to take the time to give my two cents about mental health and working in student affairs. As a young professional today, I look back at my past and think about everything that I have had to overcome to get to where I am today. Not very many people know about my life aside from my success and my career goals and of course they most likely know that I am fabulous.

To get to where I am today, I have had to conquer self-doubt, depression and anxiety and to this day, it is still something I continue to struggle with. However, I know that each day, I am getting stronger. Although people have told me things like “You’re too crazy to work in this field.” or things like “You can’t handle this kind of job.” I never let that stop me from pushing through and achieving my goals.

As a black male, I was often judged for expressing my emotions, particularly by other black males. If you cried you were weak, if you showed emotion you were gay, if you didn’t keep all of your feelings to yourself, you weren’t a man. These are the things that are ingrained into us during our childhood.

It wasn’t until I was able to comfortably talk about these problems (either with a therapist or a counselor) that I started to understand that it is ok.

It IS normal to have these problems and it IS ok to get help for your problems despite what others may think because they are not you. Don’t be afraid to get the help that you need, especially if there are services provided to get that help. It will only help you grow closer to accomplishing your goals and reaching success.

Be on the lookout for my episode of the podcast which will be out soon. Check out his podcast here.

-Mike

What Is Your Purpose?

Hello Readers,

With it being graduation season, I thought I would write a little something to maybe inspire some of the many graduates that will be or have already walked across the stage and received their diplomas and degrees.

When I decided to pursue Student Affairs as a career, I will be honest, my intentions were pretty selfish. Deep down, I wanted to do it for the recognition. I wanted to be seen as a important person, I wanted people to tell me that I matter to the world. However, I didn’t really know what my purpose was. I didn’t know WHY I wanted to go into student affairs.

In one of the organizations that I was involved in, my adviser asked me a very important question that I never really thought about, “Why do you want to go into student affairs?”. At the time, the answer I gave was “Because I think I will do a good job.”

It was at that moment that I realized that “Because I think I will do a good job” is a terrible answer that has no meaning. This answer may have had meaning back in grade school, but not when I am about to get into my field.

Being asked this question led me to ask myself many more questions:  “WHY am I going into student affairs?” “WHAT do I want to do with a degree and a career in student affairs?” “HOW do I want to impact this world?” and “HOW do I plan to do it?”.

To this day, I am still searching for the answer to some of these questions, but as I began my summer internship the following summer, these questions stuck with me and I believe they made an impact on my overall performance in the position.

I started to think about how I could impact this world through a study and a career in this field. Through my summer internship, I got to work in many different roles and get a taste of different areas that stem from student affairs such as Orientation, working with students from underrepresented groups and of course Residence Life.

From that experience, I was able to answer some of those questions that my adviser asked me that day. I discovered that my passion is playing a part in providing services to students. Helping students in anyway I can to help them through what could possibly be the most difficult challenge of their life. After reflecting on my personal collegiate experience, I discovered a passion for helping students that come from the same background as myself.

Today, I am so thankful that my adviser challenged me by asking me so many difficult questions. I feel like I have a completely new outlook on student affairs and what impact I can make on the students that this field serves.

Graduates, ask yourself this, What is your purpose? What will you do with your degree? How will you impact the world?

Thank you for reading.

 

Making Connections

What I have enjoyed the most about my Summer@Brown internship experience is being able to make connections, not just with many of the professionals that are currently in the field but also with current graduate students and others like me that are preparing to embark on their student affairs journey.

For the past few weeks, I have been studying for the GRE and fine tuning my statement of purpose for my number one graduate school choice. I feel so determined right now to go all out on this particular application and really give my 110 percent both on the GRE and in completing the remainder of the application materials.

Applying to an institution in the Ivy League something that I never thought that I would do but after meeting so many amazing people, it does not surprise me that they have motivated me to really go above what I think I can accomplish.

I’m getting the opportunity to network with professionals that share identities with me which I believe is the best thing that could have ever happened. Many of these professionals have opened the door for me to really explore the field a bit deeper and it is helping me in guidance to discovering what area of student affairs I want to focus on.

Although I am still very passionate about leadership development, it is also very important to me to be involved in areas that provide resources to students that may be first-generation students, low-income students, or students from various minority groups such as being a person of color or identifying as LGBTQ+.

Personally, I don’t think there is enough praise given to students that identify as first-generation that are about to be the first in their family to get a degree. I have had the pleasure of sharing with some of the Summer@Brown students that being a first-generation student is more than just getting a degree.  Being first-generation means that you get to set the bar for many of the people in your family and / or community. Many were also concerned with being people of color and attending a predominantly white institution (PWI). As a student that does attend a PWI, I shared with them that sometimes you have to be that person to go out of your comfort zone and show others that are like you that it’s ok.

I’m learning more and more that this field is all about taking chances as well as being prepared for any kind of situation. It is going to be really hard to return home but I know that I have to take what I’ve learned and try my best to apply it to my own leadership development. I am learning that there are many people that do not support me and the career path that I have chosen, but I am also learning that through the connections that I have made and through the many people that I have met in this field, there are some people that do believe in me as an aspiring professional and I am so thankful for them and their continued support.

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.

Grad School Search: Revisited

Hello Followers!

Over the break, I’ve been looking deeper into the admissions process and requirements for the following schools:

Drake University (Des Moines, Iowa) – Master of Science in Leadership Development, Student Services Concentration

Kansas State University (Manhattan, Kansas) – Master of Science in College Student Development, Administration Option

Missouri State University (Springfield, Missouri) – Master of Science in Student Affairs Administration

Texas Tech University (Lubbock, Texas) – Master of Education in Higher Education

University of Arkansas (Fayetteville, Arkansas) – Master of Education in Higher Education

University of Georgia (Athens, Georgia) – Master of Education in College Student Affairs Administration

University of Michigan (Ann Arbor, Michigan)- Master of Arts in Higher Education

University of Wisconsin – LaCrosse (LaCrosse, Wisconsin) – Master of Science in Student Affairs Administration.

I had a few other schools listed on here before but I did some thinking and I decided that I only want to look into the schools that I can seriously see myself attending.

I chose to research these schools looking for the following:

Diverse Universities and Cities

Large University

Cohort Based

Theory or Administration Options

No Thesis Exit Requirement

Universites Out-Of-State

2 In-State Options

Currently I am looking at each of these schools and comparing admissions requirements such as GPA, GRE scores, deadlines, application fees, and how far they are from home.

Any advice about any of the above schools, cities or programs from those that are in current attendance or whom have graduate from these programs would be greatly appreciated.

I am hoping to narrow these down to my top 5 before the summer of 2016 and then apply to my top 3 by the end of December 2016.