DJ Kelly-Quattrocchi is the director of housing and residential life at DigiPen Institute of Technology in Redmond Washington. DJ received his master’s degree from Oregon State University’s college student services administration program in 2014. When he’s not working, DJ enjoys reading, baking, playing video games, working on his board game collection, and spending way too much time on YouTube.
While finishing up my graduate program, I thought that I had my professional trajectory planned out. I had diversified my professional experiences, my internships, and written a thesis that I was proud of. I was unsure of where I wanted to end up, but I was shooting for my dream job. But after 50+ job applications and no on campus interviews, I did something I never thought I’d do… I took an interim position in residence life across the country. With less than a week until my new student staff arrived on campus, I drove across the country to a school I’d never visited and started my new role.
I enjoyed my interim role and was considering to apply for the permanent position when my then fiancé told me he had gotten into graduate school in Seattle. While I appreciated the interim role and wanted to continue in it, my fiancé had gotten into his top school and I knew that it was time to do another cross-country search.
This search was faster, more localized, and higher stress since we had a “deadline” to be in Seattle. At this time, I had a colleague working at DigiPen Institute of Technology and she suggested that I apply to a resident director position that just opened there. DigiPen is a private for-profit school, and I struggled with the idea of applying to the institution. I had only worked at public non-profit schools and had a skewed view of what for-profit schools were like. But I decided to take the plunge to apply, and make my own decision about DigiPen instead of lumping it with other private for-profit schools. My interview was delightful. I was drawn to the student demographic, as well as getting the opportunity to work in a relatively new housing program. I was in the airport, having left the interview less than 24 hours before when I was offered the position. I excitedly accepted, thinking that I found a good position that balanced my skills and interests.
A few weeks later, I moved to Redmond and started at DigiPen. At the end of my first day my supervisor, the director of housing and residential life, asked to meet with me. She informed me that she had accepted a new position within the division and I was going to meet with the dean of students the following day to discuss whether or not I was interested in her position. I was shocked. I had hardly worked a full day, was dealing with transitioning into a new role and institution, and had less than 24 hours to figure out if I wanted to be considered for her position. The next day I met with the dean of students. We talked about what my intended career trajectory was, how I saw myself handling the challenge of transitioning into a director role and supervising two professionals (one of which currently worked there and one that I would have to hire), and whether I wanted the job. I expressed my hesitation about taking the role, especially since there was another RD who had worked within the department longer than I had. The dean of students asked me to push aside what I thought I “should” do, and wanted me to reflect upon whether I felt like I could do and enjoy the work. In the moment, this was difficult for me to do. I am a contextual and empathetic person and was worried about the impact this promotion would have upon the other RD. The dean of students saw this and told me that he believed that I could handle the professional relationships that would be expected of this role, but only if I would enjoy the work. With that in mind, I said yes.
Why does this matter? Saying yes to opportunities that have shown up has drastically changed the trajectory that I assumed I would follow. Leaving graduate school, I never thought that I would move across the country twice, hold an interim role for ten months, accept a job at a private for-profit institution, and become a director of housing. Saying yes is powerful. It takes courage, knowledge of what you’re able to do, and sometimes belief in others when you may not be able to believe in yourself. Saying yes can also be terrifying. Sometimes, it means standing on a precipice and not knowing where yes will take you. It means taking a leap of faith and being okay with where you land. Opportunity and yes are inherent in the work that we do, and being open to both can make your path fresh and exciting. Even now as a newer professional, I am learning about the power of yes and being open to opportunities.
What No One Told You About Student Affairs is a month-long series of guest posts highlighting lessons learned in the field of student affairs.