100 Professionals Answer “Why They Choose Student Affairs” As A Career #CSAM15

In honor of Careers in Student Affairs Month (CSAM),

I asked my colleagues to complete the following sentence:


I received approximately 100 responses.  Doing a back-of-the-napkin qualitative coding and analysis for themes (completely non-scientific on a non-scientific sample), the chart below represents the most common responses.  Not surprisingly, “learning and growth” and “making positive change” rose to the top.  As a helping profession, one would hope to see this occur.  Many respondents explicitly reported they are motivated by wanting to help our most vulnerable student populations.  Interestingly, the theme of “pay it forward” appeared multiple times.  Respondents felt they had transformative opportunities in college and wanted to make sure others had those as well.  They felt as though they “owed” something to those coming after them.


This is what people had to say…

(Have your own to add?  Include it in the comments below.)

…I want to be the role model I never had in my undergrad for college students.

…I get to see students learn and grow every day, and I also learn and grow with them.

…it places me in the company of colleagues who unselfishly give of themselves in service to others.

…I would never have to leave college!

…I have direct impact on student success.

…I get to affect positive change every day.

…I get to help those who might not make it find their success.

…I want to help students of today have an experience like I had in college…transformational.

…why not?

…my calling in life is to be an advocate for women’s colleges.

…I find happiness in taking the journey with students as they learn and grow.

…I get to watch students grow into the person they are to become.

…I know it makes a difference.

…I save money on groceries due to free food after events.

…I get to help create the educated citizens of tomorrow.

…I will forever be grateful for all of the student affairs staff who cared about my development, and I love helping students explore their dreams!

…I wanted to make a positive difference in the lives of students like many SA professionals made in my life!

…Junior year of undergrad, the Dean of Students pulled me in to his office and explained there was a master’s degree where you could be an RA for your whole life….I was all in.

…my life matters because of the difference I make in students’ lives.

…if you can’t change the world yourself, work to help others change the world collectively.

…it found me and I found my passion it it.

…someone was there for me in college, and I owe it to our students pay it forward.

…I want to help students from backgrounds similar to mine.

…I believe in the value of experiential learning and student affairs’ role in facilitating that process! I believe in this field.

…of the wonderful relationships I’m able to build with a wide array of students and staff across my campus.

…I’m paying it forward.  I’m the first in my family to attend college and I was successful because student affairs pros helped me.

…I was inspired by my mentor…I would have never made it through college without his guidance and support…and I wanted to do that for others.

…a few mentors said I’d be good at it and when I went to ACUI, I saw professionals who truly enjoyed what they did and that sealed the deal.

…my passion is to help international students become successful in their chosen academic and career paths–a student affairs practitioner did it for me when I was an international student and I became inspired to do the same for other international students.

…of the great feeling of community that comes with a college campus.

…education is the key to everything.

…I wanted to give back to a field that’d already provided me with more than I could have ever imagined in my college career.

…it feeds my soul.

…it chooses you. You’ll know it when it happens, and there’s nothing else in the world you can do that will feel so right.

…I was fundamentally changed, empowered, and impacted by my college experience becoming more confident, organized, and socially aware of my place in the world and I believe every person who wants that opportunity, deserves it.

…it led me to understand my purpose for being on this Earth, to be part of the transformative process of others.

…because student success matters!

…as a first generation student, my college mentors paved a road for me to be successful on my own terms and I want students to not just go to college but focus on HOW they live their college experience.

…it’s how I make a difference in the life of someone else and they make a difference in mine.

I was a first generation student who came out as LGBTQ to a hostile environment–I felt like the cards were stacked against me.  I wanted to stop out and the director of the women’s center wouldn’t let me. I’m paying it forward.

…I didn’t want to sit behind a desk and crunch numbers.

…I wanted the opportunity to make a difference for college students just like people made a difference in my life.

…I wanted to be an educator that wasn’t confined to teaching to a standardized test or stuck in a classroom.

…I wanted to have the opportunity to educate students on real world issues in a way that promotes development and independent thinking.

…of the students: I may not be able to change THE world but perhaps I can change or at least influence THEIR world for the better.

…it is a way of life which closely aligns with my core value of holistic human development, and because no two days are ever the same.

…I wanted to reach back and help other students… enable them to find their ‘way’, just as my first hall director did for me.

…without students it’s just affairs and we don’t need more of those in the world.

…to create and be a part of the true magic….of changing lives…even if it happens at 9pm..with pizza.

…it felt like home and it gave more to me than I could imagine.

…no two days are ever the same.

…to pay it forward.

…I get a chance to make sure intelligent young adult become responsible, informed and productive citizens.

…I can make a real difference in someone’s life.

…it chose me. The wizard does not choose the wand, the wand chooses the wizard!

…I wanted to help students have their Forest Gump moment – “Life is like a box of chocolates you never know what you will get inside.”

…to change lives.

…I wanted to teach outside the classroom life lessons.

…it’s where I found myself and I wanted to help others and support them while they find themselves too.

…each day is unexpected and students give me energy so that I love my job.

…it keeps me young (at heart, anyway)!

…I struggled as an undergraduate student–socially, emotionally, and intellectually–and student affairs provided me the opportunity to give support to students who face similar challenges.

…student affairs is where I can continue to develop as a female professional surrounded by strong female leaders.

…I wanted to impact students with positive change, to influence growth and development, and to leave a legacy of equality and commitment to service that gives back to the university community.

…it is a genuinely meaningful profession, which trusts us to construct an intentional environment where students matter.

…the feeling of seeing a young adult succeed in life because of my help or guidance (to bring out the best in them) is the greatest feeling I’ve ever experienced.

…I recognize my joy is realized when I can help rebuild the road for those yet to come.

…as a first generation college student, other student affairs professionals had a transformative impact on me.

…it chose me.

…it is more than a job, it is a ministry. I get the chance to help guide young people who are in the process of becoming.

…you don’t just get free food, you get to choose the menu.

…I believe in the transformative power of higher education and want to be part of it.

…students are amazing and have the potential, with a little guidance, to influence the world in priceless ways.

…other than the salaries, it’s a pretty great job–low stress, high reward, good hours and relaxed working environment.

…it gives me career satisfaction as I change and improve lives.

…I have a passion for working with student leaders.

I see everyone’s potential and want colleagues, students and peers to be their best.

…I believe in ensuring people have a better understanding of who they are, and be able to be activists for positive social change.

…every student deserves support.

…I love helping students discover who they are to see students grow over time.

…I belong here.

…in searching for a profession I found my passion.

…I wanted to assist people in their journey in obtaining their college degree.

…of my passion for education–for teaching (informal or formal–very lucky I get to do both), for learning, for helping, and for creating a better place in the world.

…I want to help students have the best college experience.

…I believe that every College student needs someone to help challenge and develop them.

…it gave me the opportunity to share my passion for people and care for the uniqueness of each individual in a time that impacts their core fundamentals.

…I believe learning occurs inside AND outside of the classroom – I love being a shepherd of the latter.

…to support our most at-risk populations in their pursuit of higher education.

…every day brings a new experience or a new relationship-plus I get to buy school supplies every fall for the rest of my life!

…I wanted to work in the education field but not be limited to the four walls of a classroom.

…someone said to me, have you ever thought about going into student affairs.

…I wanted to change the world and education (inside and outside the classroom) in central to that.

…I like feeling fulfilled at the end of the day.

…I found a career where I can return all the love and support that was once given to me and have a chance to help someone like I used to be.

…I feel I can truly make a difference in someone’s life.

…I never wanted to leave college.

…I love to help college students to grow and develop for the greater good of our future.

…it chose me when I was first year student and my suitemate practically pulled me to my first Hall Government meeting.

…because most of what I learned in college came from OUTSIDE the classroom.

photo credit: Isaías Campbell (modified)

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