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Insights From a FSL Advisor

New Professionals and Graduate Students Graduate New Professional Undergraduate
October 19, 2021 Neil Bourgeois

“Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does!”, by William James. I believe this quote could be the mantra of the student affairs profession, it is mine for sure. We strive every day to do just what it says, to make a difference. There are somedays where it can be hard to see where the impacts are happening. The field can be hard at times. We are juggling multiple things on our plate, trying to be the best we can be at our job, and trying to make sure we take time for ourselves. The moments where the impacts hit us may be at a large event that goes smoothly, or it could be getting a sincere thank you from a student. The good things come in big and small moments, waves if you will, and when they do, celebrate them!

One of the reasons I love being a Fraternity and Sorority Life (FSL) Advisor is because I wholeheartedly believe I can make a difference in this field. The reality is we have some awful things happening in our communities. It’s a reality that I believe we must face if we are to make a positive change. We must work with our communities to find the pitfalls and challenges they are facing and work to find solutions. We must work alongside our students to hold them accountable and guide them in the right direction. I want to stress the “alongside” part of that sentence. While we want to make a difference in our work, we simply can’t do it alone. At the end of the day the community belongs to them and not us. The change will largely come from the students, but we absolutely have a part to play. It is up to us to observe our community and find those ways in which we can play our part.

I believe in Fraternity and Sorority Life. I believe that while there is awful behavior around us that there are also beautiful and impactful experiences happening. I believe that the values that our organizations were founded all those years ago are still relevant today. Our organizations are here to build better people, to encourage servant leadership, to impact their local communities, and the list can go on and on. I have seen and benefited from these incredible parts of the FSL experience. I am a higher education professional because of my experience in my own fraternity. I have lived the good experience and I want to help promote that in the communities that surround me.

I am blessed to work with an incredible community of FSL students at Missouri State University. These students are passionate, and they too believe in Fraternity and Sorority Life. They are working to face the challenges and pitfalls in their own community. We are starting the conversations on how to keep things progressing forward. We are analyzing the community together and asking them, “where do you want to take this community?” Talking about the ways in which we can live out our values. Are they perfect? No. Do they mess up? Yes. Are they striving to do better? Absolutely.

It is the moments that I see them strive that bring immense joy to me and remind me of why I chose this field. It is helping them plan their next event and seeing the excitement in their eyes. It is helping that chapter president make that hard decision, the one that won’t be a popular decision. It is helping the student think through their problem and how we can work together to come up with an action plan to resolve it. It is having conversations about the current status of the community and where they want to take it. It is in these moments that I see that they also believe they can make a difference. I’ll continue to work every day to make sure that not only I remember that I can make a difference but that they can too.

Author: Neil Bourgeois is a Louisiana native who received his bachelor's degree in communication at Southeastern Louisiana University, and he received his master's degree in Student Affairs in Higher Education from Missouri State University. Neil currently serves as the Coordinator for Fraternity and Sorority Life at Missouri State University. In this role, he serves as the advisor for the Interfraternity Council. Neil is also currently involved in the Association for College Unions International and the Association for Fraternity and Sorority Life Advisors. Some fun facts about Neil are that he loves iced coffee and his favorite TV show is the Golden Girls!