“You sound like you really love what you do.”
At Commencement a few weeks ago, I was introduced to a few parents of students I’ve worked with. Some of these students I only got to know this year, others are ones that I’ve been working with since I started, even after I left my position as a renaissance woman and started working specifically in financial aid. Some of the parents I had worked with on the phone before, others I had worked with through email or not at all. It was nice matching names to faces, and it was really nice seeing all of our graduating students so joyous on a beautiful afternoon.
The parent that said this to me was one I’ve worked with in the past, in emails and via phone, over the course of about two years. Prior to the above quote, I got a hearty handshake and “oh, you’re the Cindie? Thank you!”.
I’m sure I blushed: I have inherited the terrible trait of blushing when someone so much as looks at me for too long. Commencement is one of those days where I really do love what I do. To me, working in higher education is all about that moment when a student walks across the stage and feels like they’ve been prepared for the real world. Sure, you can make arguments that graduation rates don’t really matter and that all new graduates are going to have a tough time finding jobs. I get that, I was a new graduate just a few years ago. But the difference between a new graduate who skated by, getting fair grades but not learning anything, and the one that enjoyed the material, developed some healthy professional relationships and enjoyed their time at school to boot is huge.
And then it was my turn to participate in Commencement. As a grad student.
Yes my friends, I had my graduation! I still have two summer classes, but I wore my cap and gown and got my degree conferred.
I don’t always love financial aid. I don’t love telling families they can’t afford a school that costs more in a year than a nice car. I don’t like it when I advise a student to borrow less money than they’ve asked for, and while they’ve considered my argument, borrow to the max anyway. I don’t like knowing that at times, I’m contributing to the big ole mess that is higher education in the present, and that as one person, there isn’t anything I can do to make the system better. But I went into the field because I loved working at the school I attended, and I like doing what I can do to make a difference.
So yes, I do really love what I do. And I can’t wait to finish my degree and take the next steps in my career. I may not be able to change higher education as a whole, but I can try my hardest to make a difference at the institution I work at.