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New Year’s Resolutions for Student Affairs Professionals

Supporting the Profession Small Colleges and Universities Division
January 2, 2019 Dr. Danielle Laban

The New Year always makes me feel optimistic and hopeful for the coming year. 2019. Wow. I don’t know about you, but this one snuck up on me. I feel empowered this year, with a renewed commitment to my growth as a student affairs professional. I recently completed my Ed.D and feel as if I’m coming out of a fog, a new lease on my professional and personal life as I embrace free time I have not had in years. So, I have gotten a jump start on some of my new year’s resolutions. Often, the tradition of setting a new year’s resolution focuses on personal goals such as changing your diet, becoming more active or breaking a bad habit. This year, I am resolving to improve myself as a student affairs professional. I challenge you to join me. Below are some ideas to inspire your resolutions as student affairs professionals. 

1.    Sit in the guest seat of your work space or office.What do you see? How might your photos, personal items or decorations influence how other people see you? What part of your privilege are you putting out there? Take active steps to change or remove items that may silence or oppress a student or colleague. Doing so will assist in creating a safe space for everyone who enters your work space.

2.    Find a new student who is joining your community in January. Befriend them and mentor them as they acclimate to your institution. January is a tough time to start a new journey and retaining these students can be challenging. 

3.    Read a book that makes you uncomfortable.A professor once shared with me that feeling uncomfortable meant you were learning. Reflecting on my educational experiences, the courses or assignments that challenged my beliefs and stretched my skills had the greatest impact on my intellectual and professional development. I wonder if the tears and frustration of doing Algebra homework with my Dad was me learning after all.

4.    Establish a strategy for self-care.We preach self-care and balance to our students, but often we set poor examples to our students, peers, and teams. Counting down to a holiday break or a vacation is not enough. Grab a journal and keep it on your desk, make a habit of jotting down thoughts, feelings, or reactions when feeling overwhelmed, stressed or frustrated. Do not leave vacation time on the table. Take a walk. Eat lunch awayfrom your desk 1-2 times a week.

5.    Find a fresh way to engage with your team.It’s so easy to let the cyclical nature of our work keep us so focused on our students that we often forget to take the time to focus on our roles as managers and leaders. No matter if you’re supporting student employees or managing a large team, add team building as a portion of a team meeting once a month. Start a team book club and read a professional development book and discuss together as a team. Every Friday, write someone a thank you note for something they did that week, or simply for being a key member of your team.

6.    Ask a frenemy to lunch.Build your community and your professional relationships by connecting with a colleague who you have had challenges working with in the past. Lunch too much time with that person? Invite them to coffee and put water under the bridge.

7.    Set a monthly professional development goal.Put together a calendar with one professional development activity or task you would like to accomplish in 2019. They can be big or small. Read a book, submit a conference proposal, attend an educational workshop, seek feedback from a non-traditional source, write a blog, or invite a leader to coffee who holds a role you aspire to achieve.

Danielle Laban, Ed.D has served as Director of Student Experience, functioning as Dean of Students at National Louis University in Chicago, Illinois since 2013.