After graduation in May, I was fortunate to spend two months living and working throughout Costa Rica with a company called Overland. Along with a co-leader, I facilitated an outdoor education and service experience for middle and high school students. We engaged in service projects, took Spanish classes, explored different outdoor attractions, and worked on leadership development. The position combined my love for the outdoors, my passion for travel, and my interest in education for a meaningful and fun summer experience.
At the beginning of August, my travels came to an end and I moved back to St. Louis in order to start the position that I currently hold – Program Coordinator in the Office for Student Success. The Office for Student Success, led by Assistant Provost Anthony Tillman, is a fairly new office and our mission is to support students who matriculate to WashU and identify as low-income and/or a first-generation college student. As the Program Coordinator, I work on the student facing programming and lead programs such as the Pre-Orientation programs, our Fall Retreat, our once monthly cohort meetings, and various social programs. I have also had the chance to serve in a supervisory capacity for the student staff team within our office and have forged close relationships with a number of upperclass students who are interested in positively affecting the culture on campus for low-income and first-generation students.
Being a staff member on a campus where I was recently a student has certainly been a transition. I interact with my colleagues and the campus in a totally new way. That being said, I am so happy to have the chance to deepen my community and connection with the St. Louis area. I have found more new restaurants, social groups, and community spaces that I did when I was a student here and I am so thankful for the opportunity to be deepening my understanding and impact on the city.
Having stayed in St. Louis for my Civic Scholars project, and, specifically, having worked in the educational landscape during my project, I feel like my job is the perfect opportunity for me to continue engaging with some of the big questions that propelled me through my project. What responsibilities do academic institutions have to their students’ experience on campus? How do we realize these responsibilities in an equitable way? Where are there gaps in services for students who hold historically marginalized identities and what can the institution do to positively affect these student experiences and, also, affect change on a larger scale? I hope to continue with this position for at least another academic year because each and every day I am learning so much about education, student development, university policy, and more. Afterwards, I hope to pursue a dual degree in law and social work. And, then, I’d like to settle down more permanently in St. Louis, so that I continue to work for a more just educational system for students from early childhood to and through their university experiences.
Not a day passes when I don’t refer to a conversation or reading or question that was posed during my time as a Civic Scholar. The program has offered me academic grounding for my work, a chance to identify my guiding values, and meaningful relationships that I still treasure today.