I've been waiting a while to write this post. I hope it is helpful to some people out there as a snapshot into my life for the past year. I feel it is important to reflect often, and I've had a lot of feelings about my work that I've wanted to share. I appreciate your thoughtful consideration and openness to what I'm about to share.
I started working at my institution on July 1 of last year. I just finished my first full academic year as a full-time professional at a small, private university, which is unlike any other place I've been at, in a state (albeit where I was born and have visited many times) where I have never lived, away from any friends I know and was mostly left to my own devices to find my own path. It's been a weird, wild journey, and I've learned a lot from the experience. While there have been some things that I wish I had known before I started working and living here, I'm grateful for where my path has lead me.
To put my year in context, we started out without a permanent central office for our department and also without a dedicated director to supervise us. We never got any of these things resolved during the academic year (still haven't), so we made it work without them for the entire time. This was unfortunate and frustrating but we still did our work to support our students as best we could. I can understand that there are several different variables beyond me that played into this situation becoming reality, but it still felt like we weren't valued enough to be a priority. There still are no discussions now about how the search for a possible supervisor is going to occur. We have an interim supervisor still overseeing us but they can't focus on us in the same way a dedicated departmental director could.
The culture here is also very relaxed, almost too much for my tastes. I like that about it but there seems to be a lack of urgency to get things done quickly or to go beyond the bare minimum. Communication is lacking, the infrastructure and procedures for our work feel out of date, and resources are very limited. Students enroll and withdraw from their coursework and the residence halls consistently, making things even more difficult (higher education in Maine is struggling with this). The Student Life team is tiny here and seems to be low on the totem pole of institutional support. While we aren't a required part of the student experience (they are coming there for their degree after all) we are increasingly what makes it meaningful and memorable for our students.
Even with all of this, I'm mostly glad that I'm here. I shared some thoughts relevant to this before, and especially after my job search, which was emotionally difficult for me, I am happy that I found full-time employment in my field very soon after graduation. The pay is fair, the benefits are good, and I am not stressed out by my job (unless I get into a negative mindset and get frustrated about all the quirks). I know I'm learning a lot and I've been given some great opportunities here to help with New Student Orientation very closely as well as sit on numerous search committees hiring full-time colleagues.
I write all of this to try to give a candid picture of my experience. I've had students cry in my office, parents and students genuinely thank me for helping them, I've had late nights, early mornings, long days, and programs not succeed how I wanted them to. I didn't get to do all that I hoped for in my first year, and a lot happened that I couldn't expect, good and bad. All I can say is that life is funny that way sometimes, and I encourage folks to always make sure you are very thoughtful in your decision-making. If I had ended up somewhere else, far from my partner, that was like where I am now, I probably be in a much worse emotional state. Since I have her and my family close by, I'm much better off.
I hope this didn't come off as airing dirty laundry. I don't intend it to seem that way. I didn't know what I didn't know about what was to come here. Some of it I couldn't possibly know. I just have had an experience here that isn't what I want for myself going forward. I don't seek to make any definitive qualitative statements about my institution. I just know it isn't for me. That's been a very helpful point of growth for me to learn that. I'm sharing my truth and I hope some others can perhaps normalize what I've gone through, since I don't have much to compare my experience to, and perhaps give advice.