A Dialogue on Professional Development: Thinking Outside the Box
By: Rod Bugarin, HED EdD Student & Shannon Lopez, HED PhD Student
ROD: Hey Shannon, are you going to the SACSCOC meeting this fall? I remember you worked on UTHSCSA’s accreditation.
SHANNON: Actually, I’m shifting career paths.
ROD: How did that come about?
SHANNON: Even though I’ve enjoyed working with my institution’s data to report outcomes evaluation, I want to work more with students. I’ve always known that I want more of that direct connection and seeing how our faculty engage with us, in and out of class, I find myself following that interest even more.
ROD: I know our coursework encourages us to find ways to develop and to make a difference in communities that will benefit from work we are passionate about. Beyond conferences and working on campus, I’ve really enjoyed how opportunities in organizations outside of academia have given me a new dimension about what I can do when I graduate. Don’t get me wrong – I know I can make change as a campus administrator; but I’ve also been inspired by my peers who have thought outside the box and sought work experiences beyond those on a college campus like those in consulting groups, government agencies, and non-profits.
SHANNON: I never thought about getting experience that way. So beyond conferences or part time work, I could intern with the Colorado Department of Higher Education or Denver Scholarship Foundation this summer.
ROD: Yes, or during the quarter if you can squeeze it in. Next year, I hope to intern with one of the enrollment consulting groups based in Denver. With my advisor’s permission, I hope to use it as one of my electives.
SHANNON: Thanks for that insight. I was concerned about how I’d be continuing building my resume while balancing coursework. I knew about the value of conferences and workshops to further myself professionally, but had not considered finding alternative experiences outside of a campus.
ROD: Denver is unique in that there are lots of opportunities in the metro area. And to be a change agent, we should (and are encouraged to) think big. Have you thought about getting experience with an organization in San Antonio?
SHANNON: Yes! There’s a non-profit called Communities in Schools. It’ll be perfect as it’ll give me hands on experience with students, while I can research those interests I’ve developed in class on the intersections between families, schools, and students.
ROD: That’s outside the box thinking! And this would be a great experience that Dr. Kiyama would love to have in her class. You should ask if you can be her TA next year. But, ask early. I know a lot of our fellow doctoral students want to have TA experience as it’s another great avenue for professional development.
SHANNON: Any other tips?
ROD: Finding mentors in other fields is very helpful. I remember advice that Marybeth Gasman gave during an ABAFOILSS
(Association of Black Admissions and Financial Aid Officers of the Ivy League and Sister Schools) meeting about the importance of having a “board of mentors.” This way, when there are new opportunities and challenges in your professional and personal life, you can turn to multiple seasoned professionals to help you navigate these choices.
SHANNON: I can definitely work on that. After all, my partner, family and friends can only stand so many of my “What should I do with my life?” questions.