Why I Chose Student Affairs

The first time I worked the Freshman Barbeque at the University of Colorado Boulder, no sooner than when I stepped in line for hamburgers did an incoming first-year approach me and declare, “I need to meet you.”

It was my last summer of college, and I was an Orientation Leader supporting new students in their transition to campus. Earlier that day in our Inclusive Campus Climate workshop I came out as a student leader in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer (LGBTQ) community, and my openness clearly impacted this first-year student. She came out to me as we stood in the barbeque line, and although she had nothing specific to ask, she said she needed to meet me, talk with me, and be reassured she wouldn’t be alone as she began this chapter of her life.

My own freshman year was filled with similar moments. I remember my heart pounding when I visited the GLBTQ Resource Center and met an adult whose full-time job was to help students like me when facing the often-inevitable discrimination that LGBTQ students experience on many campuses. For the first time since leaving to go to school out-of-state, I didn’t feel alone.

And though I often found faculty and classmates misunderstanding my identity, I always knew I could count on my community at the Resource Center for the encouragement to keep going and referrals to resources that helped me stay successful. Even one small tip to apply to a scholarship ended up changing my life by helping me stay in school full-time through graduation, and when I was hired at the Resource Center I paid the support forward by creating a detailed online guide for transgender students at my campus.

Through my job at the Resource Center and at Orientation, I was thrilled to help students like the first-year at the barbeque find their community and get connected to the resources and campus centers that would support them. After meeting many LGBTQ students who found out about student groups or the Resource Center as juniors or seniors—“too late” in their words—my goal was to help as many students as possible avoid the problem of “too late.” I focused heavily on communications and outreach during my undergraduate years, and now that I work in Career Services, I get to continue that goal by helping students learn that it’s never “tooearly” to access our many resources for success in and after college. There’s nothing like seeing the smile that crosses a student’s face when they finally find their niche, and it’s pretty darn cool that I get to create those moments as part of my career.

This post originally appeared on the University of Utah Educational Leadership & Policy student affairs blog.