1 Running head: A CAREER IN HIGHER EDUCATION ADMINISTRATION 1 A Career in Higher Education Administration Cody M. Cocchi Georgia Southern University
2 A CAREER IN HIGHER EDUCATION ADMINISTRATION 2 Finding one s career trajectory is a constantly evolving process. In my younger years, I had grandiose ideas of becoming a marine biologist or a veterinarian. Years passed and my career path transformed into a want to join a career field like my uncles, civil engineering. This dream stuck around a little longer until I ran into the hardest course I had ever taken, calculus II. I had never taken calculus in high school and had made the mistake of taking it in college over the summer. After withdrawing from calculus II not once, but twice, I decided that a career in civil engineering was not for me. That was the point in my college career that my major changed to history. I was really inspired by a teacher that taught the course world civilizations, amongst others. I took a couple of his courses, and after some failed attempts at calculus II, I decided that I would pursue a degree in history. At the institution I was attending, we had to select a minor to go along with history degrees. I selected the allied field social sciences, since at the time I thought I may want to become a high school social studies teacher. Once I graduated with my history degree and minor in social sciences, I quickly realized that my college education had not prepared me for the rigors of life after college. I had not been guided to take any kind of experiential learning courses, internships, or any type of course that would adequately train me to find a career in a history-related field. The experience, or lack thereof, engrained in me that when I became an educator I would motivate and push my students to seek out real world experiences mixed within their academic coursework. My college education made me want to strive to help students not only find out who they were, but what they wanted to do after college. The timing of my graduation from college could not have been worse. The generation who had graduated just a few years earlier were successfully finding careers and jobs within their
3 A CAREER IN HIGHER EDUCATION ADMINISTRATION 3 selected field. In 2009, the year of my graduation, the economy had reached the peak of the recession. Those who had found jobs were quickly laid off along with professionals who had been in the industry for decades. The market was flooded with overqualified and underemployed individuals and, at the time, I felt lucky and content to keep my current job in the service industry. I tried for a long while to apply for jobs while I worked, but after two years with a college degree and nothing to show for it but a job I had secured while in college, a change had to be made. After much debate with my family, friends, and then girlfriend, I decided to join AmeriCorps VISTA. In a nutshell, AmeriCorps operates several programs that are meant to put people to work, while allowing them to gain practical, real world skills to further their employability. VISTA, or Volunteers in Service to America, was one such program. I consider this my real education. Through VISTA, I gained all the skills that I wish college had provided me: professional communication, office experience, networking, technological expertise, and confidence in the work environment, just to name a few. My VISTA experience, although a risky move, was arguably one of the best decisions I ever made. Through VISTA, I was able to find my passion, career path, and current position in higher education. The connections I had made in the community helped me to secure a position as a service-learning administrator at a higher education institution. My position at the college has afforded me the opportunity to pursue my Master s degree in higher education administration and pursue my goal to teach young people at the college level. The ultimate goal for me has always been to teach either college or high school, become published, and complete a doctoral degree. Now, I see the career trajectory evolving even further. I am much closer to attaining my goals of pursuing a higher degree of education, so I am
4 A CAREER IN HIGHER EDUCATION ADMINISTRATION 4 forced to consider what is beyond the Doctorate degree. This part was a major challenge for me because, until this point, my short term goal of completing a Master s degree had seemed so far off. Now that my Master s program has begun, it will not be long before my goal is achieved and I have to move onto the next phase of my career. If all goes according to plan, I would complete my Master s program after summer of After that, I would like to retain my administrative position while teaching freshman orientation courses. Gaining teaching experience will help me determine whether I want to obtain a Doctorate degree in education or a more specific field, such as history or social science. After continuing to administer the service-learning program and gaining some practical teaching experience, my long term goal is to become a director of an experiential learning program, similar to the service-learning pedagogy. In order to accomplish my goal of obtaining a position as the director of an experiential learning, co-curricular involvement, or civic and community engagement program at a higher education institution, I require more practical experience and professional development. Through over a year of experience in higher education administration, I have built some qualifying skills such as: experience in a service-learning program, program planning, mentoring and supporting student assistants, and working effectively and collaboratively with teaching faculty and academic administrators ( Executive Director for the Office of Civic Engagement and Diversity, 2013, para. 6). There are still many skills, competencies, and expertise in educational ideologies that must be obtained. Most of these skills can be developed through my current position in higher education. If given more freedom to expand duties and skill sets in the areas of budgeting, assessment and evaluation, and student and staff development, I can start to build my repertoire to include the
5 A CAREER IN HIGHER EDUCATION ADMINISTRATION 5 needed skills to obtain a position in the future. Other skills that would be required of desired positions include supervision of employees, three to five years of full time, professional experience in higher education, and student and staff development on a greater scale ( Coordinator for Service Learning, 2013, para. 14). I would have to complete my Master s program in order to begin teaching general freshman orientation courses. I would also need complete eighteen credit hours of Masters-level coursework before being able to teach courses in a given field. After completion of the Master s degree, I would need Experience teaching at the college or university level and/or developing community-based programs, curriculum and/or research ( Director of the Center for Community and Civic Engagement, 2013, para. 3). There would also be an expectation for me to have experience incorporating service learning as a teaching methodology or another type of experiential curriculum into ( Director, Center for Civic Engagement & Leadership, 2013, para. 3). Competencies that I hope to gain through my Master s program in higher education include: assessment and evaluation, Knowledge of student programming models [ ] student development and leadership theory, and its application to program planning ( Assistant Director for Co-Curricular Involvement, 2013, para. 11), student learning theory, cultural identity development theory, student involvement and personal development theory ( Executive Director for the Office of Civic Engagement and Diversity, 2013, para. 19). Knowledge of these theories would provide a solid base from which to build my teaching on. Course work in the Master s of Higher Education Administration at Georgia Southern will provide a great base of knowledge, but it will not be enough to get me to my future goals. Subscribing to and reading journals in higher education, experiential learning, and service-
6 A CAREER IN HIGHER EDUCATION ADMINISTRATION 6 learning will help increase this base and keep up with current issues facing higher education. Joining academic and higher education associations can help increase collaboration within the field, help foster conference presentation skills, promote new research opportunities, and provide a soundboard for ideas in higher education administration and curriculum development. Having an experienced mentor is also an important factor in professional development. High quality mentors can help young professionals grow both personally and professionally. They can point out specific academic resources, conferences, organizations, and other professional development opportunities that will further growth. Mentors can also support young professionals by listening and providing direction to the person whom they mentor. My personal mentor is also my boss. She has many years of experience in higher education, experiential learning practices, and a passion for diversity issues in higher education. The skills, competencies, and direction she has provided have helped me tremendously as I navigate a field that is new to me, higher education. With her direction and expertise, she has been my guide through the murky water which is higher education. In order to reach my long term goal of obtaining a position in a leadership role as director of an experiential learning, co-curricular involvement, or civic and community engagement program, I will need to continue my education by obtaining a Master s degree. Additionally, I will have to ensure that competencies are met in the theoretical knowledge of teaching and learning. I will also have to attend national conferences on experiential learning, civic engagement, and leadership. I have to expand my current role, or find and interim position in higher education that will provide a widened skill set. This position will have to expand upon my current responsibilities in the areas of budget management, supervision of employees, assessment and evaluation, and student and staff development. Finally, to obtain my desired long
7 A CAREER IN HIGHER EDUCATION ADMINISTRATION 7 term goals, I must continue to surround myself with like-minded professionals, whether it is via mentorship, conferences, organizations, or other professional development opportunities.
8 A CAREER IN HIGHER EDUCATION ADMINISTRATION 8 References Assistant Director for Co-Curricular Involvement. (2013). Retrieved from Assistant%20Director%20for%20Co-Curricular%20Involvement Coordinator for Service Learning. (2013). Retrieved from details.cfm?jobcode= &title=coordinator%20for%20service%20learning Director, Center for Civic Engagement & Leadership. (2013). Retrieved from https://chroniclevitae.com/jobs/ Director of the Center for Community and Civic Engagement. (2013). Retrieved from https://chroniclevitae.com/jobs/ Executive Director for the Office of Civic Engagement and Diversity. (2013). Retrieved from Executive%20Director%20for%20the%20Office%20of%20Civic%20Engagement% 20and%20Diversity&aID=584
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