Danielle Morgan Acosta
Current Position and Institution:
Director of Student Affairs – SGA, Florida State University
First Position and Institution:
Resident Director, Bowditch Hall, Salem State University
My first professional role was as a Resident Director for a First Year Experience, community-style building of a little over 300 students at Salem State. I had been a full-time graduate student and took on the role with two more classes to go and was excited to have my own staff and to be energized by students new to college and all the fun that goes along with creating a meaningful, educational experience.
Looking back, my three years in Bowditch Hall were some of the most enlightening, entertaining, and life-changing years in my career – from the students to the staff, I grew as a person and a professional. Here are a few lessons I use even still today:
Invest In Your People. Supervision can take a lot of time and effort, but it is totally worth it. Spending times connecting with staff and students, being present, building them up and engaging in what is going on in their lives helps create long-lasting support systems and networks, that really do pay off. A lot of my first staff members and I stay in touch. They keep me updated on their lives or check-in looking for an advisory conversation on my proverbial office couch. When your staff trusts that you care, they put forth the effort to also care, and it makes for a great experience… even when they act a little ridiculous. The same is true for your supervisors and your peers – building connections in and outside of work, as partners trying to work within systems to make a difference, can be so beneficial. Sometimes you need someone who totally understands what is going on and you can gain life-long mentors and friends in the process.
Support Staff are Key. When you help manage a building, and lots of students in a building, you tend to learn quickly that you should never be surprised. Mold? A leak from the front of building’s elevator of the 7th floor that drips outside your ground floor office? Poop smeared on the mirrors in a bathroom? The maintenance and facilities people are your best friends and integral to the community you want to build – regardless if you work in Residence Life or not. Through conversations with the facilities workers in my building I learned a lot of skills I even use now in my house and am prepared for understanding roof damage, heat issues, and elevators in ways I never thought possible. Connecting with your support staff, recognizing, appreciating, and engaging in their work and their lives goes a long way at good relationships, and great management.
The Best Professional Development Is Doing Your Job Well. Being open to constructive criticism and feedback from your supervisor is important, as is making sure you are working to make their job easier by doing your job better. Doing so is not only great for your future in the field; it also opens you up to more professional opportunities. My participation in ACPA leadership, the ability to take on extra assignments outside of my job description like planning student staff training or helping with Orientation only were afforded to me because I was doing the best I could to make sure my work assignments were taken care of. Focus at home and take in all the learning that can happen there, and your opportunities will expand exponentially!
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…