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Loyola University Chicago

Division of Student Development

Testimonials

Graduate Assistants were asked:

1. What was your experience like as a Graduate Assistant (GA)?

2. What qualities does a potential Graduate Assistant need to succeed in your current role?

3. How has your Graduate Assistantship prepared you for your future career?

4. What is the most fun part of your Graduate Assistantship?

Brian Goo, Academic Affairs

1. My experience as a graduate assistant has been great so far, especially coming in with no experience within academic advising/academic affairs prior to coming to Loyola.  My office is a great work environment and has provided me with a wide range of experiences that will aid in my future career plans.  The assistantship has given me opportunities to connect what I am learning in class to my direct interactions with students.  Furthermore, my role has allowed me to gain a good understanding of how a university is run and how the staff contributes to the students' experiences.  Finally, being able to be a part of a community with my fellow graduate assistants has allowed for the transition to Chicago and higher education much easier and enjoyable.

2. The qualities that a potential GA will need or learn in order to succeed are balance and flexibility.  Because GA's are both students and staff, it is important to maintain a sense of balance in course work and time spent in the office.  There can be times where multiple elements of your life will place demands for your time.  In order to remain well during these times, it is important to have a sense of balance between the various roles, and flexibility to meet the needs of all responsibilities.  In doing so, it will require a high level of self-awareness where you know your learning/working style best, what your strengths are, and where your bending-points may be.

Also, the position requires:

  • Quick thinking - sometimes you do not know which student will need assistance or how quickly you will need to react to a situation.  Also, collaborations and projects arise quickly, it is important for GAs to be able to be adaptable and willing to quickly contribute to these tasks.
  • Empathy - students from very different experiences and backgrounds come in seeking guidance.  It is important for GA's to be able to express a level of empathy to meet the students where they are in order to aid in their development.
  • Eagerness to learn - The GA role (in combination with the courses) provide great opportunities to learn valuable skill sets within the field.  Being willing to take advantage of opportunities will greatly expand upon the entire graduate experience.
3. My graduate assistantship experience thus far has provided me a much greater understanding of what it is like to work at a mid-size and mission driven university.  After coming from a large public university in California for my undergraduate degree, this has been an invaluable experience. I have learned about a different student population and organizational structure.  Also, my office has provided me with a sample of a wide range of the experiences that full-time advisors undertake.  I have learned a great deal about how to have difficult conversations with students, communication, and supervision.  In looking forward to my future career plans, my experience has prepared me a great deal in terms of skills and will only enhance my ability to be successful in the field.

4. The most fun part of my GAship is the relationships that are built by the position.  I love my interactivity with the students, co-workers, fellow GAs, and the entire campus administration.  By being a GA, I feel as though there are an innumerable number of opportunities to connect with a wide variety of people on this campus.  Also, the GAship allows for growth and exploration in my functional area and my emerging role as a professional.

Russell Aivazian, Assistant Resident Director, Residence Life

1. I have had a really good experience as an ARD.  I have been able to network with many other student affairs professionals and apply what I have learned in the classroom to my work in Residence Life.  I have really enjoyed working with a diverse group of graduate students and full-time professionals, which has already enriched my experience.  Being an ARD does mean long hours (especially on duty), but it is incredibly rewarding because you are working directly with students.  

2. In my role specifically, a GA needs to be able to be organized and juggle many tasks at once.  In Residence Life, we hold many positions on committees and take on various projects for the department or our building area. Additionally, there never seems to be a "typical day" in Residence Life and a potential GA needs the ability to adapt any time of the day.  Finally, a GA in Residence Life needs to be able to think creatively about problems and the ways in which to engage their staff members.

3. Having an assistantship in Residence Life means getting the opportunity to "get your feet wet" in many functional areas of the Division.  We get the opportunity to participate in conduct, student supervision, administrative tasks, programming, and so on.  Being an ARD has allowed me to create connections with staff members outside of Residence Life and figure out what my next step will be when I graduate.

4. The best part of my GAship so far is the connections I have made with the other ARDs in the Higher Ed program.  We have created such a strong friendship and a feeling of family, which has made the transition to Chicago much easier.  I have also enjoyed the small interactions with students, which makes this work totally worth it!

 

Laura Bohorquez, Student Diversity & Multicultural Affairs
1. Full of surprises is how I describe my experience as a GA. I say this because I came to Loyola’s Department of Student Diversity & Multicultural affairs (SDMA) during a time when the department was going through a transition with new staff, different department structuring, and a multitude of new ideas. With all of these transitions around me I had many opportunities, along with challenges and therefore growth. I was also pleased at how fast I was able to build relationships with my staff how much support I received from them when it comes to sharing my ideas and taking on projects. Overall, I have had a great GA experience. In fact it has been better than I had imagined because it has been difficult, sometimes too busy, but at the end of the day I love what I do and I am able to call my staff, my Chicago family.
2. I believe that the qualities that a potential SDMA GA needs in order to succeed in my current role are agency, being goal-oriented, committed, flexible, and having an open heart/mind. The reason I say these is because being a GA is not only about growing and unlearning things for your own personal, social, and professional development, but also with students and alongside the larger communities of which you are a part. Therefore being open hearted and minded are vital. Being goal-oriented and committed are important because there will be challenges as well as learning opportunities at work and you will get overwhelmed trying to balance work, life, and school (we all do and it is normal). If you do not focus on what you want to get out of your assistantship and in what ways you want to contribute to the Loyola community, then it will be easier for you to lose sight of what matters to you and your purpose. Ultimately, I think that being optimistic and knowing how to have fun and being okay with mistakes and doing better the next time are what will help you succeed.
3.My GAship has helped me enhance my communication, collaboration, facilitation, and cultural competency skills. Having conversations with various students and staff about issues of social justice, multiculturalism, and diversity have encouraged me to be more effective in participating in difficult dialogues with civility. Moreover, I am a lot more comfortable public speaking (which says a lot because I have always been intimidated). My GAship has prepared me for a future career by giving me the opportunity to make my own goals and holding myself accountable to them. I believe this is crucial in any career because sometimes we might not have the support that we need in our working environment. However, this does not mean our goal cannot be attained, thus if we have a goal that we really want and believe in then we should make it happen knowing that we can't hold anyone accountable to our goal if we first don’t hold ourselves accountable to achieve it.
 
Henry Shin, Assistant Resident Director, Residence Life

1. My experience at Loyola as an Assistant Resident Director has definitely been an exciting roller coaster ride. Flying in from California with three suitcases without knowing a single soul (and having never visited the campus) to start the next chapter of my life as a graduate student, I really needed to take that leap of faith. As with any transition, it wasn't always the rainbows and butterflies. Just a month into my ARD position, I missed an important meeting. Trying to prove my worth in this new city, it was difficult to show signs of failure. After discussing how I was performing with my supervisor, I bought my plane ticket back home for winter break. It didn't matter that it was only the end of August; I felt like I was counting down the days before I could head back to my support systems back in California. Things began to change as time went along. While I still didn't do everything perfectly (and don’t worry, nobody ever does), I started to get into the groove of things. It definitely helped having new friends who would just hear me out even if it was about something that wasn’t going well. The relationship with my supervisor was developing along as well. From mediating roommate conflicts to administering conduct, I started to learn that I am actually good at these things! However, some things, you just never see coming. By the end of the year, I had worked through multiple major student crises and transitioned once more to a new supervisor after my supervisor left the institution at the end of February. It was my new supervisor who really let my light shine. She utilized my strengths to the fullest while challenging me to develop in the areas I need growth. Overall, despite the challenges I had throughout the year, by the end of my first year as an ARD, I came out feeling confident, capable and prepared for anything my second year could throw at me.

2. A GA in Residence Life needs flexibility, vulnerability, and a positive attitude. Especially in residence life, there are definitely late nights and long weekends. Duty calls at 3 a.m. come the days you want them the least. Through it all, we have to have the positive attitude to handle all the situations. Yes, there are times to vent, but when engaging with the students, regardless of the decisions they made, we must conduct ourselves professionally. Along with this, there will be times when work load is heavy. Move-in and RA Selection are just two of the many high-volume work periods in residence life. Without the flexibility to manage all of these, a GA in Residence Life will have a tough time. Through all of it, vulnerability can be an ally. While my experience with vulnerability came as a result of a mistake, don't let it be the same for you! Share your needs with your supervisor! Your supervisors do care about you, whether they are good at showing it or not. Although some of your needs will not be met, you will never know unless you ask.
3. Residence Life has given me a plethora of skills to prepare for my future career. From student conduct and crisis response, to building community with co-workers and students, Residence Life offered me a little bit of everything. But these skills alone will not be enough in the field. The relationships I’ve built with those around me will be the number one component I take with me to the future. I’ve met people who’ll be there for me and life-long friends I will forever cherish. No matter the trouble I may face in the future, they, along with the skills I’ve gained will push me to continue pressing on.
 
Katie Doucette, Retreats, Campus Ministry

1. My Graduate Assistant experience has been filled with a variety of joys, challenges, and growing moments. I think some of the greatest joys include having a great supervisor who acts as a mentor and support system, the opportunity to work so closely with students, and the chance to work with some amazing professionals within the Division. Even though there were some challenging moments, those moments have allowed me to grow in my professional identity and gain critical skills I believe I would not have gained otherwise. The professional development has been great and as I look back I am amazed at the many opportunities I have been given to hone in on skills such as cultural competence, networking, counseling, and so many others. I feel prepared in many ways to embrace what will come after graduation!

2. I think one of the most important aspects to succeeding in an assistantship is to have a good grasp of yourself and your own identity. What do you stand for? What grounds you? What are you good at? What are your weaker points? How does your identity impact the work you do? This is a continuous process throughout our entire career but I think it is critical to pay attention to while you are a GA. This time is your foundation, where the messy internal work can more easily occur, and quite frankly is more accepted. Embrace it!! Additionally, to succeed as a GA you must be open to the diverse identities and stories of others; not only students but staff and faulty as well. With an ever changing demographic that is becoming more diverse, developing cross-cultural skills is very important. Lastly, being motivated and malleable for all the unpredictable times higher education might bring upon you.

3. My assistantship has helped me to prepare for my career by giving me one-on-one time with students so I can better understand their experiences and be their voice in rooms where they are not allowed. I also think my assistantship, since it specifically resides in retreats, has given me the logistical skills to put on big events or programs. It is amazing the detail, time, and strategy that goes into planning retreats and I feel as though I have become more organized and detail-oriented to take on big tasks. I think my assistantship has also taught me some skills in mentorship, since I have had the pleasure of having so many great mentors during my time here. Lastly, I feel as though I have really developed my professional identity to one that represents me and my belief system.

 

Jena Eberly, Late-Night Programming, SAGA

1. Some of qualities I believe are necessary to be successful as a graduate assistant would be the willingness to be flexible, the ability to multi-task, and the importance of being a team-player. We collaborate with a lot of people in our jobs and it's important to listen, learn, and understand others point of view. The ability to partner with other departments is important to everything we do.

2. My experience as the Graduate Assistant for Late-Night Programming in Student Activities & Greek Affairs has been a wonderful experience. I have learned more than I ever thought I would and gained crucial skill sets that will only enhance my ability to be successful in this field and effectively reach students. Working in Student Activities & Greek Affairs has taught me so much about event planning, how to respond to students needs and concern within the realm of programming and why it's important to a student's experience. The work we do is meaningful and rewarding. I could not have asked for a better team to be a part of!

   
Dacia Hobson, Programming, WTC Life

1. Anyone who loves student affairs and wants to work with professionals dedicated to serving students and furthering the Jesuit traditions will definitely excel as a graduate assistant. Outside of the job description you must enjoy meeting new people and developing new relationships and networks. Overall, the person must be flexible, enjoy laughing and smiling, and thinking creatively and analytically.

2. One year is such a short time frame and there is so much to learn about Water Tower and the unique needs of the WTC student body.  It has been a great experience working with the WTC campus staff and becoming a part of their tight-knit family.  Their support and guidance have become an invaluable contribution to my professional development.

Melissa Pollay, Hearings Officer & Board Advisor, OSCCR

2)  My experience has been very interesting so far, especially as I had little experience working in conduct prior to coming to Loyola. Student Conduct can definitely be difficult and frustrating, but it can also be extremely rewarding because you get to connect with students on a completely different level than you may be used to. It has also been great to have the opportunity to get to know the other GA's throughout the division, and the professional staff throughout the division have been incredibly supportive.

Emily Wilk, Outdoor Experiential Education, Campus Rec
1)  To be a GA, one needs to be able to balance tasks, responsibilities, deadlines, and relationships. Additionally, they need to flexible, reliable, empathetic, comfortable working in the unknown, very passionate about one or two causes, a team-player, reflective, and open to change. Overall, they embrace holistic education and love students.

2)  I am the graduate assistant for the Office for Outdoor Experiential Education.  I have had a multitude of hands-on experiences, which include facilitating on-campus workshops and small group exercises at Loyola's new Retreat and Ecology Campus. Currently, I am co-facilitating a training program for students leading outdoor experiences for the Loyola community as well as participating in meetings about the future challenge course and rock climbing wall and meeting with students one-on-one to discuss 'big life questions' related to college and their professional life.

This position has allowed me to share my love for the urban outdoors by providing a place for student’s connection with something greater than themselves in a community of support and friendship. I have witnessed students who have never slept outside thrive on kayaking day paddles as well as backpacking and cross-country ski trips. I have seen students take action to clean up litter-ridden campsites and discuss the environmental impacts of human travel. I am able to discuss with my supervisor current practices and research of the outdoor field and how they apply to my work and future as an outdoor professional.  This position has allowed me to develop my outdoor technical and facilitation skills and connect them to field of student affairs. 

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