So I am now a few weeks into my graduate experience and I’m going to do some tracking so that those considering Grad school can see at least one perspective of what it is like.
Let’s start with the classes. In a recent post, My Joys In Life, I talked about the importance of enjoying what you do. I can tell you beyond the shadow of a doubt that I enjoy what I do, even if it is stressful at times. When you are up late writing that Literature Review, searching desperately through sources to complete that midterm exam, or freaking out about whether in APA you have a works cited or a reference sheet (reference, for the record) to put on that report about a student affairs office, you truly have to love what you do. And the classes really are great. I’m going through the program with my cohort (if you haven’t heard the term, it is a group of students who basically were all admitted and began the program together and are taking the same classes). Cohorts are great because they create a sense of camaraderie within the often times stressful environment of the classroom.
So classes can at times make your head spin. I’ve done assignments ranging from interviewing individuals in other offices about their work to analyzing different student affairs models at schools to annotated bibliographies, even general exams (often in take home, essay format) and papers. The work you do is very similar to humanities and social science degrees in undergrad, but a bit more in-depth. In undergrad you would be expected to know that Harvard was the first college to open in the colonies, Oberlin was the first to admit women beside men, that the first major student group was Pi Beta Kappa, and the Land-Grant Act changed the landscape of University Life. In Grad School, you would also need to know that Harvard was founded in 1636, not followed by a second university until the College of William & Mary was founded in Virginia in 1693. You would need to know that in 1835, Oberlin college became the first institution in the US Higher Education system to become co-ed, that Pi Beta Kappa was founded in 1776 at William & Mary and that the Fraternity system began with the founding of Kappa Alpha Society in 1825 and the first sorority appearing in 1851, and that the Morrill Land-Grant Act of 1862 provided 30,000 acres of land to each congressman for the establishment and development of colleges and universities with the provision that they must provide courses on military arts, mechanics, and agriculture (I am proud to claim the author of that act, Justin Smith Morrill, as a fraternity brother, initiated as an honorary member in 1860).
Then there is the research. I have only just begun the program, but being in the thesis track and with a class based on research, this idea has already been brought up quite a bit. I have read more articles, books, and journals on topics I am interested in over the past several weeks than I honestly knew even existed before I began my program. And the more I read, the more enthralled I become with my topic. I get more accustomed to the language, the ideas, and the thought processes which honestly only help me in other areas. While I am far from being an expert, having the chance to get involved puts a smile on my face and ignites a passion in me. Research means a lot of reading, sifting, and at times drawing difficult conclusions. Sometimes it means completely changing your point of view and being open to new ideas. But it always means doing what you love.
So what about the work side of things? So I have the privilege of working with Fraternity and Sorority Life at Texas Tech University. This means I work with long standing traditions, at times having to challenge the process. This is far easier said than done. Have you ever tried as a 20 something to suggest to a large group of students with big name alumni and donors who are completely against changing it in any way, shape, or form because they don’t see anything wrong with it (let’s be honest, hazing, parties, and a lot of other issues are in fact major problems that face Greek life for all of the efforts to end them).
Another fun challenge has been adjusting to a new university, learning my way around on top of being an “expert” on resources, Lubbock, and the campus in my first week. That being said, I would suggest experiencing something new. This is just a personal opinion, but I do feel that moving to a new school has and will continue to stretch me and push me far more than having maintained my place at my undergrad institution. Not to mention, it means I’ve already been through the readjustment to a new school once, so it will not be as new once I complete my masters. Then of course I had to learn about being in Texas. I’m a Florida boy from North Carolina…I like trees, rain, and the ocean. Living in Lubbock is the farthest I have ever been from a major body of water and the only trees are those carefully tended by the city or university. I am currently sitting in the largest cotton patch in the nation. The wind when it starts blowing could carry away a bus I’m pretty sure. But all that being said, the people are very friendly and the sunsets are gorgeous.
So the great thing about being a graduate assistant is having the chance to form my own experience. I am currently the advisor for NPHC (a very different experience from IFC or Panhellenic for those that have had interactions with them) and for all the council treasurers, not to mention writing press releases for the office. Along with all of this, I get the chance to advise “small Greek” organizations in our IFC, develop a Greek Leadership program, and work on an Fraternity and Sorority Life (FSL) newsletter. Add in professional associations such as ACPA, NASPA, and AFA and the experiences are endless.
I really love my graduate experience so far. If you are interested in more info on my grad school search, look at Grad School Galore. If you would like more on my thoughts on Fraternity and Sosority Life today, please check out my post on FSL.