Are you a prospective graduate student looking for a grad program that’s the right fit? Or know a prospective graduate student in their grad school search? Lauren Marriott, second year Master’s student shares with HEASPA why she chose to attend grad school at The University of Texas at Austin. Thanks for sharing your experience with HEASPA, Lauren!
Why UT: Reflections on the Grad School Search and Why UT-Austin was on my list
In Fall 2012 I had a lot on my plate.
I was in my first full-time professional position at a university and I was adjusting to post-grad life: the 8-5 schedule, sustaining a long-distance relationship, constantly being mistaken for a current undergrad by parents visiting campus, or traveling to high schools visits where hall monitors would ask if I was late to my homeroom.
But here’s where it really got stressful. At the same time that I was counseling prospective undergraduates and their families about the college search process and how to perfect their application for undergraduate admission, I myself was narrowing down my list of graduate schools. I was doing my research, drafting my personal statements, and talking to peers, mentors and total strangers about where I should apply for my master’s in higher education.
I was sleeping, eating, breathing college applications and that mysterious process of “finding the right fit” that goes along with them.
So, if you are currently going through the grad school search and application process, two things:
- I imagine you’re stressed. It is stressful. You are being inundated with pitches, brochures, websites and info sessions and if you’re looking at multiple schools, they may be running together in your mind. It gets better and this too shall pass.
- YAY! This is an incredible privilege and an amazing opportunity. You cannot make a wrong choice, you will only end up making the right choice (FOR YOU, RIGHT NOW, that’s life).
With those two nuggets of advice out of the way, just let me say that I won’t tell you that UT-Austin is WHERE YOU SHOULD APPLY!!!!! BE LIKE MEEEEEEE!
I don’t think that is particularly good advice or a great way to make major life choices, and it certainly won’t magically make UT-Austin the best fit for you.
But you have stumbled upon the HEASPA blog and so I feel compelled to at least mention why UT-Austin came to be on my list, and what I learned about the graduate school application process.
When I was choosing schools to apply to, here is what I said I wanted:
○ I cared (and probably still do) about prestige. I wanted name brand recognition. I wanted to be affiliated with a school that I could be proud of and where my classmates would challenge me to be my best.
- Commitment to Public Higher Education
○ Its what had served me well and what I wanted to continue to serve. I knew I wanted to increase access and quality for the students that came after me.
- Real Development of Administrative and Leadership Skills
○ At the time, my understanding of what “student affairs” was was too “fluffy”. I wanted my graduate program to teach me research, let me work with data, budgets, supervision, and assessment. I wanted some real hard-and-fast skills to add to my career.
○ I knew I didn’t just want an education for the entry level when I graduated but that I wanted the education for the career that awaits me 15-25 years from now.
○ I was confident I could be a good practitioner but I discredited a myopic focus on college student development without also understanding the macro-view of the higher education landscape in which college students live, learn, and act.
- A location where I could explore and thrive
So here is the pitch that I gave myself for “Why UT” should be on my list:
- With The University of Texas at Austin, the prestige is there.
○ The UT-Austin College of Education is one of the top education schools in the nation. It is a nationally recognized and respected institution, but ultimately that is not what you should choose a school of education for.
- UT Austin is a, if not THE, leader in the US Public Higher Education Landscape
○ If you, like me, are interested in the politics and tensions of higher education policy and governance, there is no better context in which to study than at a top-tier public research flagship in a state like Texas where population demographics, politics, innovation and change affect the work we do in higher education every day.
- Micro-level skills and a Macro-level understanding
○ Here, I was able to take electives in counseling skills, career counseling, and facilitate a First-Year Interest Group in order to develop the skills that will aid me in entry-level positions supervising and counseling undergraduates.
○ It also provided a context where we discuss the major trends and the bigger picture in higher education.
○ I have been exposed to doctorate seeking students and their dynamic research at the nexus of academic scholarship and higher education leadership.
- Austin is a great place to be a young professional.
○ Its also just a great place to be period, but considering where I am at in my life and career, Austin is an amazing place to call home.
Ultimately, you will make your own list of schools to apply to, for your own reasons.
Do your research and use YOUR OWN METRICS to narrow down that list. Don’t just take someone else’s suggestion and stop there.
Know that in most cases, you can tailor the program you are in to fit your interests. That could be through research, practica, internships or roles you take on within your program or at the institution. (FYI your interests might change… maybe that’s a good thing. Let that happen.)
At the end of the day, let the things that interest you, drive your decision. Narrow down that list using your own metrics of what you understand currently about a program and what you know you want or value. And don’t be afraid to be compelled by the thing that intrigues you. I did, and I am better for it.
Christina Ramirez, second year Master’s student, recaps the most recent HEASPA meeting focused on Professional Development and led by Dr. Jenny Smith, Director of the University Leadership Network here at UT Austin. Thank you, Christina for giving HEASPA a recap to round out Careers in Student Affairs Month. Longhorns really do love Student Affairs!
Student Affairs Professional Development
Did you know that October was Careers in Student Affairs Month? October was also UT HEASPA’s Professional Development Month.We were fortunate to have Dr. Jenny Smith, Director of the University Leadership Network here at UT Austin, speak at our October meeting on the topic of professional development. Here’s the advice Dr. Smith had to share.
Skills and Goals Activity
Take a sheet of paper and fold it in half, making two columns. Title the first column “Skills I have” and the second column “Skills I Want”. Next, fill in the two columns assessing what professional skills you currently have and which skills you would like to possess in the future.
Using your lists of current and desired skills, ask yourself the following questions:
- What does professional development mean to me?
- Where do I want to be 5 years from now?
- What resources or professional development opportunities are currently available to me?
- Which of these resources will help to me to achieve my career goals?
Professional Organizations and Conferences
Professional organizations are a great way to start your professional development efforts. Joining an organization gives you the opportunity to learn more about the field in which you are interested and also gives you the chance to connect with other student affairs graduates or professionals in the field through networking events such as conferences.
Here are some of UT HEASPA’s favorite professional organizations who have annual conferences:
- American College Personnel Association (ACPA)
- American Educational Research Association (AERA)
- National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA)
- Association for the Study of Higher Education (ASHE)
- National Intramural-Recreational Sports Association (NIRSA)
- National Orientation Directors Association (NODA)
- Southwestern Association of College & University Housing Officers (SWACUHO)
Mentors are also a great professional development resource.
My mentee Jenny and I.
I can’t encourage utilizing mentors enough! Throughout my time here at UT Austin as an undergrad and now a graduate student, I have extremely benefited from the mentorship of experts in the higher education field. I was connected with these mentors through professional, academic, and leadership roles, but obtaining a mentor can happen through various other avenues. It can be as simple as researching student affairs professionals at your given institution, connecting with them, and asking them to mentor you. Mentors can also be your peers! As a HEASPA member benefit, first year Master’s students get paired with a second year mentor and can rely on them on subjects such as courses recommendations, APA writing formatting, obtaining an internship, or even just life advice sometimes! At our HEASPA meeting this month, we had our mentor/mentee reveal (pictured above)!
Supporting Your Students’ Professional Development
I had the opportunity to work the UT Division of Student Affairs Job and Volunteer Fair held on campus last week. In this role, I connected with students about employment opportunities but also had a chance to connect with them about their employment goals as undergraduate students.
So far, I have provided you with some ways to get involved in professional development opportunities to help you achieve your own career goals. But, is anyone wondering how to support the efforts of students you may supervise or mentor? Encourage students to:
- Get involved in organizations that will professional support them.
- Utilize campus resource such as career centers.
- Attend organized job and/or career fairs on campus.
- Make a list of acquired and desired professional skills.
- Make a list of career goals.
- Obtain a mentor in the field in which they desire to work.
- Attend conferences in the field in which they are interested.
From Undergrad to Grad Student: Why I’m Glad I Didn’t Wait
By Hannah Hendricks
I was a junior in college, and by this point I had realized exactly what I did not want to do. I did not want to be a journalist. The deadlines, the interviews, the pressure and competition were not my forte. I did not want to get a master’s degree in English. I loved reading and writing and analysis, enough to make it my major. I did not love, however, the literary know-it-alls and the need to find some new angle with which to analyze, well, everything. Couldn’t I just appreciate the written literature for what it was?
Instead I started to focus on what I did love. I loved being involved. I loved leading my peers. I loved creating new ways to get the student body involved. I loved new students and orientation. I loved my sorority and leading my institution’s Greek community. I loved what college was and is, but more importantly, I loved who I became in college.
So, I started talking to those who were influential to my college experience. You know, the advisors, the professors, the deans, and directors. “Think about student affairs” was the ultimate reply. So, I did.
I decided to go to graduate school for Higher Education Administration, and I decided to go to The University of Texas at Austin. While all of the professionals I knew working in higher education were thrilled for me, I was surprised that a great deal of people (more than I could have expected) were curious and cautionary about my decision to go straight from undergraduate to graduate school.
Don’t you want to gain some real world experience? How do you know this is what you really want? Are you sure you want to move to Texas? You’re a little young aren’t you? Are you just trying to avoid the job market? The questions and cautions were relentless. Okay, maybe not relentless, but it sure did seem that way at times. It was enough to make going straight through my number one concern about starting graduate school. Was I ready? Would I know enough?
Well, my friends, I learned a few things by making the leap, going with my gut, and doing what I believed was right for me.
- I became ready. I’ll be honest. I wasn’t ready for the matureness that you might need in graduate school. I had grown quite comfortable in my little, cozy, cocoon known as undergrad, but I became ready. I’m thankful for this development. I learned how to confidently speak my opinion, how to present successfully and persuasively, how to hold my own in a work meeting. I also learned that I could. I could do things and more. I could put myself out there. I could make myself ready for anything and everything that just might come my way.
- I needed to make new friends. No, not because my college friends are awful. They are actually still the most amazing people I know, but I needed to be exposed to life outside of my undergraduate bubble. I needed to invest in a new community. Sure, I miss my college friends all the time, but I also love the community I have developed here for its own reasons. It’s special in a different way.
- I learned to be passionate academically. As mentioned previously, I was an English major in college (don’t judge my grammar skills!). Even though I could argue my love for William Carlos Williams or the importance of Young Adult Fiction pretty convincingly, I knew I wasn’t ready for some of the career options having a degree in English would lead to. Being a graduate student has made me realize that my heart is passionate for something, and it is an amazing feeling. I have stances and opinions, and I truly care about the field I’m entering.
- I charged towards the uncomfortable. It’s not all the time that every single day holds something out of your comfort zone. I think it was so beneficial to put myself into an environment where this was the case. Where I had to learn a new city, make new friends, study new things, etc. It was also just as beneficial to realize I could succeed, and I would be okay. Sure, I might have not left my apartment without GPS for months, but hey, now I’m doing just fine!
- I learned to be okay alone. I don’t think I ever did anything by myself as an undergraduate. I went to church with friends. I grocery shopped with friends. I did everything with someone else. That togetherness is lovely, but sometimes you need to learn how to be alone. You need to learn how to go to church alone or how to go to a dance class by yourself or even how to walk into a party where you only know one person. You just do, okay.
Will Hussman shares with HEASPA how he discovered the College of Education was the right fit for him as a graduate student.
Think Outside the Taco: Finding Your Fit in Graduate School
Written by Will Hussman
With breakfast tacos in my belly, burnt orange on my back, and the blazing sun in my face, my debut as a Longhorn had finally arrived!
—all of my patience, fasting, prayer, and yoga leading me to one thing: Arabic pedagogy.
Yes, Arabic Pedagogy: the singular source of fame for the University of Texas. Nevermind the Pickle, the Blanton, or LBJ. Never mind McCombs, DKR Stadium, or the inventor of the internet! Never mind one of the best Colleges of Education in the country. No, I had come for one thing and one thing only: Arabic pedagogy.
—that is, until I met Victor Saenz.
There I was, one semester down, looking to make a name for myself in the Department of Middle Eastern Studies. My adviser and boss, the inimitable, charismatic, and visionary Mahmoud Al-Batal invited me to design a survey for our Arabic students. With this charge, I arrived at the steps of the College of Education.
Most of my classes had already been outside my program, so why not cross the street and spend a few hours a week in Victor Saenz’s higher education survey research design course?
So there I ambivalently went, with an appetite for just one thing: Arabic pedagogy.
—but I made much more than a great survey; I made my new home in the UT College of Education.
I didn’t know this at first. It started with an admiration of the culture—the philosophy.
Victor and his posse of education natives all seemed to manifest an inspiring scholar-practitioner duality. Most were employed full-time. Many were hyper involved in campus affairs.
And the cherry on the cake for this married father of two? Work. Family. Balance.
After a semester in the Sanchez Building, I came out with:
1) A great survey instrument
to be featured on a panel at the Middle East Studies Association Conference this fall.
2) Real experiences with the Austin community
As a class, we analyzed a survey instrument used in the development of the Colony Park master plan neighborhood, in conjunction with the Longhorn Center for Civic Engagement. We also gained rare insight while visiting the headquarters of CCSSE.
3) A working knowledge of SPSS
Using real data sets from national surveys of college students, we used statistical methods to create practical reports addressing realistic student affairs dilemmas.
—and above all
5) A new major in which I felt truly at home.
Changing majors halfway through my graduate experience was an act of faith. I experienced a roller coaster of feelings about loyalty to my original program and adviser, about adjusting my career trajectory, and about building a new social network, but—after some temporary reeling
—I made the decision to act, rather than be acted upon.
I now realize in retrospect that my myopic quest in Arabic pedagogy was preventing me from finding the most important thing a graduate student can experience in the program (or job!) that will shape much of their remaining life: fit.
Will Hussman is an Arabist, veteran, and international news junkie graduating next spring from the Program in Higher Education Leadership (CUSPA). He and his wife, Tasha, love living and learning in Austin with their two kids.
by Brittney Cox
Can you believe we are already a month into the start of this semester? Time sure flies by when you are having fun in grad school doesn’t it? Well, with the start of the new semester, we asked Lauren Marriott, second year Master’s student, to give some advice that she wish she had known coming into the program and starting off the year. Thank you, Lauren, for sharing this post with HEASPA!
In anticipation of the start of the 2014-2015 school year, as I prepared to welcome the new master’s and doctoral candidates to the Program in Higher Education Leadership, I asked my fellow classmates to reflect upon their transition into graduate study. I wanted to know: What do you wish you had known when you started the program? The responses were varied, with everything from how to network and pursue professional development opportunities, to how to manage living on a “ramen every night budget” having returned to a college student lifestyle.
Here are the top 5 pieces of advice we in PHEL had for our new classmates:
- This experience is what you make of it.
The CUSPA program especially is designed for a great deal of flexibility and customization in your education. While we do have a set of core courses, we also have many opportunities to specialize our studies and experiences through the internships, research appointments or the in-or-outside of department electives we choose. Someone interested in comparative education can intern for the international office and take coursework in comparative higher education. Someone else might be focused on a career in academia and so chooses to TA for a course-or-two and to work alongside a professor on research or independent study. Others choose to focus on counseling and education psychology, or leadership and management or fundraising. This program allows for the student to have a lot of control over what this experience looks like for them and what they hope to get out of it.
- Grad School is less about the grades and more about the people.
In undergrad., we were dedicated to getting an A by simply doing everything the professor required to make the grade. We may have even chosen our electives around an “easy A”. In graduate school, we recognize that our time on campus, surrounded by these peers, professors, and mentors, is limited and precious and that we need to make the most of it. In class, that means writing final research papers about practice areas we can see ourselves working in after graduation, and using our passions and experiences to dictate what courses we choose or experiences we seek. We study hard, but we also prioritize networking, since these classmates are also our future professional colleagues. Anyone we meet inside and outside of the classroom may be the key to the next professional opportunity. Beyond the networking through, our personal relationships and friendships are just as important. The fun we have at concerts, movie nights, and happy hours are what keep us happy, balanced and feeling supported as we relieve the stress that goes with juggling school, work, and life.
- Stay organized and focused.
As graduate students, we have a lot on our plate. Many of us are balancing a full-time course load with a part-time graduate assistantship on top of all of outside commitments we have including making time for ourselves and having a little fun. Others are carrying out full-time roles on campus while attending a class or two at night. It can be a lot to manage with not a lot of time left to get assignments done. You are not alone if you are feeling stressed. We all do at some point in this journey, but by staying organized and focused on our end-goals, we find a way to prioritize and get our work done.
- Get involved and make your mark.
We have a unique opportunity to leave a legacy through our involvement. We can start new campus initiatives, leave efficiencies and processes at our internships and volunteer our time on campus and in the Austin community. As graduate students, we can effect change through the graduate student assembly, HEASPA, and the multitude of organizations that we choose to be a part of. A lot of us can look back with a feeling of accomplishment knowing that we made UT-Austin a better place.
You’re in Austin now! Take some time to explore all that UT and Austin have to offer. The time here will fly by and this place has so much to offer in terms of culture, entertainment and fantastic food.
- A Personal Photo/Headshot
- Preferred First & Last Name
- Any Awards or Distinctions You Received During Your Time Here
- Answer: “What are you most looking forward to post graduation?”
Don’t forget to submit your glad tidings for our 2014 PHEL grads by March 14th (Wednesday)!