On Being a History Major in Student Affairs

History+Homepage+ImageReflecting back to my recent interviews, I found myself conceptualizing myself as being someone who, due in large part to my history major at the University of Delaware, needs to have some context to things to be able to fully understand and appreciate them. It could be current events and their historical precedence, or it could be an initiative from a supervisor and wanting some further explanation behind why we are doing something besides "because I said so" or "because that's how we've always done it". I need something more than that. What I need to hear contextually as a proud history major working in student affairs is a logical context preceding our actions. I need to hear that a new effort is backed up by theory, data, or exceptional practices from colleagues and fellow higher education institutions. We should never be making decisions, in student affairs or otherwise, on whims or emotions or simply personal anecdotes. We need to pull from more credible bases.

A history professor I had in college once told me that the study of our past is captured well by the metaphor of "a turtle on a fencepost". This means to say that the turtle could not have possibly gotten up on that fencepost on its own. Someone had to do something to put it there. Pretty much every major thing happening in the world today is like that turtle. It was caused by the actions of someone or something. It is crucial for us to understand these phenomena and causes, as to not repeat the mistakes of the past.

While this contextual philosophy of mine was garnered from a very macro perspective, I see it being highly applicable to the work I do on a micro level every day. We need to learn from the past to improve for the future. We need to build upon the successes we've had, avoid making the mistakes again we've made before, and work to continuously improve to better serve our students.

I don't think I wasted my undergraduate degree coming into student affairs. I think it has made me a better professional.