The Women in Housing series is a month-long project featuring the voices, stories, and experiences of women who currently or formerly work in housing and residence life. Today's post was written by Laurie Berry.
Never is a word I am learning to use less. Using this word often comes back and reminds me that a life full of never never works the way I envisioned it.
Sometime last summer, I came to the realization that I was not planning to leave housing. I once had the goal of being Dean of Students or VP of Student Affairs, but decided I really enjoyed the work I was doing in our housing department. I may not spend the rest of my career at my present institution, but I was sure I was NEVER leaving the housing field. I loved what I was doing and I was looking forward to the challenges it would bring.
Within the week of returning to campus after a short vacation, my supervisor was talking to me about an opportunity within the Dean of Students office. While I knew the assistant dean was leaving, and I was excited to work with the new dean who would be joining us in a few weeks, I was not looking to leave my department. And yet, the opportunity to work with students in a new way, and to be able to work full time in conduct again tugged at me. For a few moments, I was excited at the prospect of a new position one that I had been working towards for a number of years. In the next moment, I was certain that my career path would not take me away from housing.
I decided to take some time to weigh my options. My supervisor was supportive of me taking a few days to really think about what I wanted to do. My “never leaving housing” declaration was weighing heavily on me.
It was through confronting my fear that I realized my never declaration was holding me back. Why would I not take an opportunity to serve students and our University into consideration? Why was I letting a small word have such a hold on me? I don’t recall exactly when I decided that I would leap into a new position outside of housing and my comfort zone. I know I was excited to share my thoughts on that next Monday morning. And by excited I mean a mixture of looking forward to the future and I hope I have done the right thing by challenging myself to go beyond my comfort zone.
It was early July - markedly one of the busiest times of the summer and I had just decided to move to another department. I was full of guilt. I thought about asking my supervisor to allow me stay through opening. I knew what it was like to lose staff members during busy times. I did not want to be that person.
As the quote says, “Moving on is a simple thing, what it leaves behind is hard.” Moving my office was not really all that hard. It was hot. It was sweaty. But a good amount of the work was done by my 17 year old daughter. We were able to purge, move and set up my office on a Saturday in mid-July. Amid the busyness of the week, we had a going away party and a welcome to the new team gathering.
I love the work I do. I see campus from a very different perspective. I have many more meetings with students and we discuss a wide variety of things. I get to problem solve in new and interesting ways. I am reinvigorated in a way I had not been in many years. And yet, in some moments I miss the work I used to do in my former position in my former department. These moments are fewer in number as the days and months go on. I have come to realize that though my position in the University is no longer in housing, I will always be a housing professional. It is as much a part of my professional DNA as my eye color is a part of my physical DNA. I grew up professionally within the housing community. I get to work with housing professionals as we serve the diverse needs of our students. I am also a student conduct professional. I am a Title IX professional. I am student affairs professional who works in a department with a staff that I love interacting with on a daily basis. They challenge and support me in ways I never anticipated. I work with students who inspire and challenge me in ways I had not anticipated. Perhaps that is the lesson in this most recent transition – never say never. Growth and opportunities come along in unanticipated ways. Being open to those enhances our professional growth.
Laurie Berry is the assistant dean of students at the University of Southern Indiana. She is a 25 year veteran in higher education and is currently working on her PhD in Educational Leadership at Indiana State University. Laurie enjoys reading and considers herself a StrengthsQuest nerd.