George J. Hill
Current Position and Institution:
Academic Advisor, Opening Doors Learning Communities, Kingsborough Community College
First Position and Institution:
Adjunct Advisor, Freshman Services, Kingsborough Community College
The most important thing I learned in my first year as a student affairs professional is that it is important to seize the opportunities that present themselves, even if they aren’t exactly what you think you want at the time. When I applied to my graduate program, most of my experience with student affairs as an undergraduate was in residence life and student activities. I thought that was what I wanted to do with my career. I had attended two 4-year colleges as an undergraduate, and was somewhat biased against community colleges. I hadn’t really thought about other areas in student affairs, nor had I really thought about working in a community college. When I got into my Masters program, I learned that there was a lot more to the college experience than my own limited experience had been. I learned that there was a lot I did not know about college and that the only way to learn was to get experience. I learned the importance of saying “yes” to opportunities.
Halfway through my program, I got an email through the campus listserv that Kingsborough Community College was looking for a part-time academic advisor in their Freshman Services office. I figured that it would be good experience, and important to get something besides undergraduate experience and my graduate internship on my resume, so I applied. At the time, I had no intention of working full-time at a community college. I got the job, and started saying “yes” to a lot of things that I had no idea that I wanted to do.
The answer to, “Do you want to teach a freshman seminar class in a learning community?” was “Yes!” even though I was 22 years old, had never taught, and had only a very basic idea of what a learning community was.
The answer to, “Do you want to go full-time and work with Allied Health students?” was “Yes!” even though I was an English major in college and am squeamish at the mention of blood.
The answer to “Do you want to go to this regional learning communities conference” was “Yes!” even though the theme that year was math instruction, and I am not a math teacher.
The answer to “Do you want to join a research project on civic engagement” was “Yes!” even though I had no idea what civic engagement was.
By saying yes to all these things, a pattern in my career began to take shape. My career has become focused on supporting first generation college students and facilitating their connection with communities on and off campus, with resources that can help them, with one another, and with material across disciplines. If you had told me 10 years ago that I would be an academic advisor invested heavily in the learning community movement, I would have looked at you like you were nuts. None of that was what I thought I wanted back then. But guess what? What I wanted back then wouldn’t have made me happy with my career and I am currently very happy with the way my career is developing. Saying yes can open doors for you, but it can also open you to doors that you never even thought you’d want to walk through.
The #SATBT series asks higher education and student affairs professionals to share a picture and reflect on a memory and/or one of the most important lessons the learned from their first job in the field.
Consider contributing your story for potential inclusion in the book version…