Sunday, April 22, 2007

Sordid student affair

A recent comment from my friend Susan (who blogs about oxytocin at sort of is spurring the following entry (original post here). Susan, you asked me why student affairs and not art?

First, I'm going to say that I have a friend who graduated from MICA, who got a Fulbright to study textiles in India, came back to MICA to finish the masters in arts for teaching program and served as a graduate assistant to ResLife, and then decided she didn't want to finish MAT, and she became the assistant residential coordinator. Now she's leaving MICA to persue textile design, but she really contributed as a staff member because she went to MICA as an undergrad, and she understood the needs of the students and student-staff so much better than non-MICA-grad staff. The last two years have added a lot of items to her resume, given her tons of responsibility and leadership experience, put her in a position to effect students at her alma mater, and been an important bridge between art students and the professional staff.

She's pretty much my hero. She didn't do the whole reslife thing as an RA when she went to MICA, she had the student experience, and now she's had the professional experience.

That being said, I want to work more than two years she's spent in student affairs.

I don't know that I have enough that I want to say with my art right now, or enough that I want to share, to be an artist full-time. I'm also seeing the possibility that I'll live long enough to have two full careers. After all, student affairs does have a really high burnout rate. In terms of money and lifestyle, student affairs, I feel like, is something I could do for a while, since I love dorms and college students and campus life, but not neccessarily forever. I don't know that student affairs is all that lucrative, though I know somewhere is always hiring due to aforementioned high burnout.

Right now, this is my plan:
Summer 2007, get lifeguard, cpr, first aid certification
May 2008, graduate with BFA in Fibers, concentration in experimental fashion
Apply for Marburg and Fullbrghts (grants for artists to study abroad)
Summer 2008, spend summer outside being outdoorsy, camping, canoe trips, etc. at a summer camp. Though this position doesn't relate directly to student affairs, but it's leadership experience in a role with a lot of responsibility, and is potentially a source of some amazing references.
Fall 2008, look for jobs in student affairs like hall director, assistant hall director, especially at institutions that work with student affairs graduate students.

While I do have a certain fear of failure as a designer or fine artist, I know that I'm good at that, I know that I'd be a pretty good art teacher, and would love to teach high school students in visual/performing arts programs like the one I was at for the first two years of high school. Those teachers changed the course of my life from fisheries/wildlife management to getting a BFA in art school. I became obsessed with the idea of art school, and my parents have been instrumental in making this dream come true for me. It has been a wild, crazy experience, and I wouldn't trade it for the world.

It's also been brought to my attention that I'm stubborn. I come from a long line of stubborn individuals. And while a certain part of me wants to work in student affairs to prove to myself that I can do it, to get over what happened this year, that's absolutely not the driving force. The driving force is that I want to help students the way that RA's and Area Coordinators and Residential Coordinators I know helped me.

And I have a passion for it that surpasses that I have for creating art. There were times this year where it was so easy for me to choose to prioritize programming and residents over my own studio art work. Funnily enough, this occured to me in January-February, when J broke up with me and I was looking for all the other things that meant something to me in my life. And I found my residents as bringing me that joy and becoming that community I was looking for.

In my mind, I have little interest in working at a not-art school, or in a residence hall for science and physical education students. There are a few dozen high-tier academy art schools in the United States. Working at an art school means I'm still in that community of artists. A lot of time, professional staff get to take a class or two for free or a reduced cost per semester (which does double duty of being not just The Man on campus, you're also someone's classmate). There are art graduate programs at these schools, which is something I'd have to think about to teach art at the college level.

Were my parents glad to hear that I was thinking about going into student affairs? Of course. It's got benefits, which are the holy grail for those who've graduated with a bachelors in fine arts. But for so many reasons it makes sense, and feels like the right place for me. I've got interests in multicultural and ethnic affairs, issues of diversity and inclusion on campus, I feel passionately about disability services, I love programming and student activities, and of course have a high interest in the communities of artists living together that on-campus housing represents. And I see little reason that I can't develop a studio practice of my own and continue making art in the context of working in student affairs for 8 to 10 years.

I'm also willing to forgive myself for screwing up the RCA thing this year. It's not the end of my involvement here, and I learned a lot, even if it was the hard way.

1 comment:

  1. thanks for sharing your decision process. I'm impressed that you're able to be so clear in your goals.

    You're certainly right -- and very wise to know -- that you'll have time for two careers. When I was your age, I thought that older people -- after 35 or so -- didn't really enjoy things or have fun. Now, I realize that sometimes it's easier to enjoy things, having (in my case, at least) a healthier emotional and financial base.

    Hey, let's have coffee if you come to Berkeley.


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