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Everybody Needs a Passion Project – Working with Student Organizations

New Professionals and Graduate Students
October 25, 2022 Briar Douglas

When I first came to Missouri State, I had one goal in mind: join as many organizations as possible (it’s no shock that I found my way into the field of student affairs with this mindset). I moved to campus and hit the ground running: I joined my residence hall’s Hall Council as their event coordinator, I joined one of the university’s top choirs, and I auditioned for an a cappella group, all within my first year on campus. As I continued through my undergraduate and graduate careers at MSU, I found myself learning and growing through these organizations in ways that could never be taught in the classroom. It was these experiential learning opportunities that got me hooked on student engagement and student affairs.

Flash forward a few years, now I have completed my graduate program in student affairs and have started my first professional role as the Coordinator of Co-Curricular Involvement. In this role, I work with our 300+ student organizations, serving as their secondary advisor, and with the Office of Student Engagement’s leadership development programs, developing curriculum and overseeing the logistics of the program. This has been a goal of mine since my junior year of college and I’m so thrilled to be in this position – working with student leaders is one of the most rewarding aspects of my day!

Since starting the job early this year, I have had the opportunity to meet one-on-one with students from all over campus. Sometimes it’s just a typical catch-up meeting with one of the students in the scholarship program that I advise, sometimes it’s with an organization president asking for help with a difficult member, sometimes it’s with a student who is interested in bringing a new student organization to campus – it’s always something new! For every one-on-one, I always start with the same few questions: how is everything with school?; and how is everything outside of school? Typically they give me the well-rehearsed response that they give everyone that asks, something along the lines of ‘fine, but stressful’ or ‘I’m just tired’. No matter the subject for our meeting, the student will always pep up when we start talking about what’s going on in their organization. Even if things are going badly, you can feel the passion and drive behind their words when they walk me through the situation. When the opposite is true and things are going great for the organization, it feels like they can’t find enough words to fully describe the emotions they feel – THAT is my favorite feeling to witness.

The truth is, everyone needs something to distract them from the run-of-the-mill, day-to-day tasks that we all must complete in order to stay afloat. For the students, this might be responding to yet another discussion board post, finishing the weekly quiz, or simply going to class. For us professionals, that may be responding to emails, going to staff meetings, or even holding one-on-one meetings with our students (we’ve all been there). Now that I’ve been in the position for a little over eight months, I’ve realized that we, as student affairs professionals, also need to be seeking out ways to ‘fill our cup’ in the ways that involvement on our campuses did. Since we aren’t students anymore, how can we find outlets for this indescribable feeling of excitement and drive? Spoiler alert, it was in the title of this post—a passion project.

Passion projects can take many forms – starting a podcast with your best friend to talk about your favorite TV show; mastering a sport that you never had time to practice before; writing music for a future album that you’d like to record – the list goes on and on. Find some time in your week to identify a passion project that you want to take on, even if it’s a small goal! Start by journaling every day, maybe that will turn into your first novel! The possibilities are endless, but that’s the most exciting part! Dream big, you may even inspire your students to pursue their passions along the way.

Author: Briar Douglas (he/him/his) works as the Co-Curricular Involvement Coordinator at Missouri State University, working with 300+ student organizations on campus and advising the Office of Student Engagement’s leadership development programs. After attending MSU for his undergraduate and graduate programs, he began working professionally in January of 2022. When he’s not on campus, he is very involved in the arts of the Springfield, MO community—volunteering as Executive Director of the Queen City Chorale, a semi-professional choral ensemble, and a Co-Music Director of The Ozarks, a local high school a cappella group that he co-founded in 2020.