I love serving students.
Oh, you’re one of those? Yeah, I am. You see, I come from a Student Services background. Over the past twelve years I have attended numerous professional development opportunities focused on customer service and I love to serve my customers – eh, students.
We aren’t the first ones you think of when you think of educators. It is very difficult for Student Services professionals to find their place within the academic community. We have a hard time outlining learning objectives, determining how we are going to engage students, and overall seeing the outcome of our labor. If you are a faculty member, you probably have plenty of opportunities to engage your students and to connect with them on a personal level – but it is difficult to do so in student services when we rarely have an opportunity to connect unless it’s pure business.
I know what you might be thinking with all my customer service training – this gal must be upbeat, overly zealous, and ANNOYING! I’d like to think that isn’t a fair description of me. I think of myself as an introvert, mildly quiet, and observant. I need to clarify something though…
I love serving most students.
Oh, there’s the kicker. Yes, I do not enjoy serving all students and it’s mostly because I fail to connect with all of them. Connect with them – where is that supposed to fit on my job description or on my annual evaluation? Hmmm…where does that go? Oh, I know – it goes straight into my Facebook inbox.
Um, so what’s this have to do with Facebook?
So sometimes, I do connect. Maybe I helped someone make the leap and encourage them to get started. Maybe someone handed that student off to me because they knew I had the best knowledge to get them through a hurdle. Whatever the reason, I take it seriously. Several years ago I was given the opportunity to champion and encourage a young, military wife to complete her education. No, I wasn’t her advisor or teacher, and I had no other commitment to her other than sharing a similar life path of a young military wife and mother. She had many advocates and champions – so I knew I was just one of many.
Several weeks ago – I witnessed the procession of faculty line up, shake hands, and hug our graduating students. I didn’t see any Student Services professionals standing there giving high fives or any of the like because that’s just how it is. I knew though – I was just as proud of the students I connected with, especially this young, military wife. The next day I received this in my Facebook inbox:
“I just felt like I needed to write to you and thank you even though in person would have been better, but I didn’t know if I would have had the chance to thank you. Noemi has told me about you and I commend you for your achievements and the professional you are. Sometimes people lose themselves in their profession and lose that compassion within their work. We need more mentors like you.”
What? Are you kidding me? Not only did I connect with this young girl – but I had made a connection with her young soldier. I was astounded by these words from someone I had never met but only had heard of. Now don’t get ahead of yourself – there are lots of times I do not connect. I cannot find that connection or that common ground with everyone. I put a lot of effort in helping some students, some never heard from again. Sometimes I am just too busy trying to finish my paperwork, answering emails, and I don’t take the time out to walk around and engage students.
So, yes, I love serving most students. But moments like this inspire me to love serving ALL students.