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  November 12, 2002

New England Students Gather At UConn To Learn About Careers In Student Affairs
By Sherry Fisher

Find a mentor, round out your resume, attend conferences and workshops. That was some of the advice given at a one-day conference on careers in student affairs.

"Education Beyond the Books" drew some 130 undergraduates from throughout New England to learn about careers in student affairs. The event, held in the Rome Commons Ballroom, featured a wide range of seminars led by professionals in the field from UConn and other colleges.

They explored careers in college counseling, student activities, career services, and residential life.

Cynthia Jones, director of career services at UConn and conference coordinator, said the event was developed to expose college students to non-teaching professional career possibilities.

"Many undergraduates are unaware of the various career possibilities available in student affairs," she said. "Students often come in contact with professionals going through college, but they don't say 'I could be doing that.' I feel strongly about letting students know early on that there's a wide range of choices in the field."

The conference also featured a panel of new student affairs professionals, who discussed their experiences. And graduate school representatives from a variety of student affairs preparation programs were on hand to discuss opportunities and answer questions.

John Saddlemire, dean of students, who gave the opening remarks, shared some words from a speech that his father, a former dean of students, gave in the 1980s. "He was offering opening remarks to what must have been a very similar gathering of a prospective student affairs personnel," Saddlemire said.

"The opening lines read, 'There's a growing need on crowded stressful campuses for caring humans, professionally educated, creative in supplying healthy environments, and committed to the many faceted lives of students. This conference is dedicated to such people and strengthens that role. The enthusiasm, commitment, and knowledge you gain here today will help you in your own growth, and offer you ways to help others grow.'" These words are just as appropriate today, Saddlemire said.

Students attended the conference for a variety of reasons. Some are already involved in some aspect of student affairs.

Scott Bawden, a resident assistant at Keene State College in New Hampshire, said he is interested in a career in residential life. Bawden, a senior, said he was "using the conference as a tool to learn more about student affairs, graduate school, and professional jobs."

Stacey Eigen, a senior studying psychology, women's studies, and French at UConn, is interested in a career in counseling in residential life. "I'm interested in student development and transitions from high school to college," she said. "I'm looking at possibilities at UConn."

Karen Hammen, a senior majoring in biology at Holy Cross in Worcester, said she originally wanted to go to medical school. "I'm now leaning towards student affairs," Hammen said. "It's a multi-faceted field. I'm here to learn more about it and to look into graduate school."

Keith Gormley, a junior in broadcast journalism from Emerson University in Boston, said he attended to meet professionals in the field, check out graduate schools, and gain leadership experience. "I want to learn to develop my skills as a leader in the world beyond college," he said.

The event was coordinated by UConn's Department of Career Services, with the co-sponsorship of the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators Region 1, Division of Student Affairs, dining services, the Northeast Association of College and University Housing Officers, and Counseling Services.

Alison Black, associate dean of students at Daniel Webster College in Nashua, N.H., and Christina Carico, director of career services at the college, presented a session called "How to Get There from Here." They explained the different departments in student affairs, how to prepare for a career in student affairs and the benefits of such a career, and provided resources for further exploration.

"Raise your hand if you're involved in campus activities," Black said to some 50 students. Just about everyone raised a hand. Residential life, career services, academic advising, orientation learning assistance, counseling services, first-year experience, and judicial affairs were some of the areas where students were involved.

"There's a place for everyone in student affairs, no matter what your passion is," Carico said. She and Black discussed jobs in student affairs and different kinds of educational settings, noting the importance of deciding among the variety.

"Working at a small liberal arts college will be different than working at a graduate school," Carico said. "Think about the student population you'd really like to work with."

Black and Carico strongly recommended picking mentors early. "They can help direct you," Carico said. "They are your advocates."

The two told students to join professional organizations, do research on the Internet, and stay current.

"Stay on top of the field," Carico said, recommending reading the Chronicle of Higher Education. Another of her suggestions: "Network. Talk to anybody and everybody."

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