Learn about the experiences of some of our recent graduates ...
Class of 2012
Jacob Lemon, Class of 2012
Coordinator of Residence Education
Roger Williams University
Looking back at my SAA experience, there were so many valuable aspects from the program that encouraged my development both personally and professionally. The HALE faculty members were always invested in my success as both a student and a person. Not only a leader in his scholarly field, my faculty advisor was hands-on, caring, and committed to helping me find my passion in student affairs, and for that, I am forever grateful. Within my cohort, I was surprised to find a diverse set of backgrounds and perspectives that always benefitted group learning and allowed for the development of many meaningful friendships. Additionally, a diverse and well-rounded curriculum allowed me to explore my interests in the field of student affairs, while also building important skills and knowledge as a student affairs educator. Particularly, through the Practicum program, I was able to experience student development theory beyond the classroom. The connections made between my coursework and practicum experiences working at the Presidents Council, State Universities of Michigan as well as a NODA internship at Roger Williams University gave me direction, focus, and prepared me for my future career. Overall, the SAA program has given me a strong appreciation and confidence for the Student Affairs profession, provided a strong network of colleagues for support, and has been integral in my success working with students. Today, I am able to apply the knowledge I gained as a student to be effective in my career - and for that, I am so proud to be a Spartan!
Class of 2010
Dallawrence Dean, Class of 2010
The University of Texas at Austin
When I applied to Michigan State University in 2007, I was not expecting to get admitted let alone attend. In fact, the only reason I applied was because my mentor and other professionals spoke highly of the program. There was nothing appealing to me about the Midwest. All I could think of was the freezing cold weather and farming. I'm originally from Colorado, which is cold but not the same. But all that immediately changed. When I attended Spartan Preview Days (SPD) I felt an instant connection, the faculty were brutally honest and encouraged me to attend the visit days of other programs. They did not "bad mouth" other schools and all they continued to say was how excited they were for us (SPD participants) to be pursuing a career in student affairs. My potential cohort were also amazing people who were authentic and passionate about the field of student affairs. And looking back this was one of the best decisions I ever made.
The Student Affairs Administration program challenged and prepared me to succeed as both a practitioner and student, while influencing my own personal growth. While here I learned about the most current organizational structure and student development theory around. Which is imperative when working in the university setting. The program also challenged me to think about my own identity and how and why I planned to enter this field. Which was essential to my own development. If there is anything that I took away from my experience at MSU, it is the value of meeting students where they are at and the importance of advocating for students, especially when others may not understand their perspective. And none of this would have been possible without the support I received from my cohort and the faculty/staff. Overall my experience was filled with both ups and downs, but it made me the person I am today and for that reason I'm very grateful. Go Green!
Emily Straker-Barak, Class of 2010
Living Center Director
Grand Valley State University
As I near completion of training for my first full-time role, I am more than grateful for the experiences and opportunities I had as a student in the Student Affairs Administration program. I chose Michigan State for a number of reasons. Upon visiting campus I was impressed with the caliber of the faculty and students involved with the SAA program. The cohort model provided me with shared learning experiences and academic/personal support that is not often available within graduate programs. The hybrid of theory and practice provided a strong foundation and helped me to connect in-class and out-of-class. What I appreciated most were the unique opportunities to get involved in other ways throughout the program. It is not often that you are able to study abroad with faculty in South Africa over the summer and return to teach a student leadership course in the fall.
The SAA program is structured in such a way that improves critical thinking and encourages practical application, thus allowing us to be the best student affairs professionals we can be for the students with whom we work. Through coursework, practica experiences, professional seminars, and the support of individuals associated with the SAA program, I find that I am more than prepared for my new role. In collaboration with campus partners from a number of functional areas (i.e. academic advising, counseling, campus recreation), I am beginning to work with Housing and Residence Life to create a unique office specific to first-year student communities. As a new professional I am not only excited to see how the units will work together, but also how I can best apply theory and reflect on the paraprofessional and classroom experiences I gained during my time at MSU. I will always be proud to be a SAA Spartan!
Catlin Michael Wojtkowski, Class of 2010
Loyola University, Chicago
The most important things I took away from my time in the SAA program were the experiences from my practicum placements and the self-discovery that came from learning in a cohort model. At first, the practicum requirements of the SAA program seemed overwhelming. I didn't see how I was going to be able to commit 10 to 15 hours a week on top of my coursework and assistantship. However, I quickly found out that those 10 to 15 hours a week were the most beneficial. It was great to have a place outside of my assistantship to practice the theories and ideas presented in class. I was able to not only better understand my coursework, but able to see what it was like to work in two different functional areas of student affairs.
When I came to MSU, I knew I would be academically prepared for a future in student affairs. I came to MSU for that reason, even without knowing I would have an assistantship. I didn't expect the SAA program to change and shape who I am as a person. Both the coursework and my cohort challenged my ideas and thoughts on everything from students to my own identity. I was exposed to new cultures and beliefs that challenged my own, but there was always a strong support system to help me navigate those challenges. My cohort was, without a doubt, the biggest catalyst to that change, but it was also the strongest support system to help me through it. There were times when the cohort model was challenging, but, in the end, it was one of the most attractive qualities of the program. The quality of students accepted to the SAA program pushed me to be a better student and practitioner, and I am sure my cohort will continue to challenge me long after graduation.
Class of 2009
Becky Brewer, Class of 2009
Coordinator of Student Orientation Programs
Lansing Community College (MI)
Looking back I was really struck by the transformation that occurred, not only in my own thinking and practice, but in my fellow students as well. The great strength of the program is to take students where they are and foster their growth as professionals into who they would like to be. I feel so blessed to have been a part of this community and to have been transformed by this process.
JP Villafuerte, Class of 2009
Associate Director of University Relations
Golden Key International Honour Society
I'll be honest, if you were to ask me if Michigan State was on my radar for graduate schools while I was applying to graduate programs, my answer would have been no. Having been raised in Los Angeles and attended undergrad in San Diego, the idea of me living in the Midwest was almost as likely as me having tea with the Queen of England on the moon. However, when I attended Spartan Preview Days and met the faculty and learned more about the program, the idea of being a Spartan suddenly felt more than just real, it felt right.
My experience in the Michigan State University SAA Program has been one of the most important journeys I've taken in my life. My ideas on what diversity is, how I fit into it, and my role as an advocate were transformed by the challenges I faced as a student in the program. Through the program I began to understand the effects of identity on college students' development, success in college, and transition into the professional world. The knowledge I gained through the coursework, practicum, and assistantship has been instrumental in helping me succeed in my professional role today. The program's emphasis on practical knowledge and assessment has truly given me a competitive advantage over many of my colleagues today. In my role today, senior and mid level professionals are constantly seeking my opinion about conducting assessments as well as my input on strategic planning initiatives. It's a great feeling and I can honestly attribute it to my time as a Spartan.
Stephanie N. Whaley, Class of 2009
University of Alaska - Anchorage
What did I get out of MSU? Upon first answering the question, "What did I get out of MSU?" I started to write a list. Education - check. Practical Experience - check. Job when I graduate - check. And I thought to myself..."of course I should have gotten these things from a Masters Program at one of the most prestigious Student Affairs programs in the nation!" So I delved a little deeper, because I knew that my experience held so much more. At MSU, I was surrounded by some of the most well-reputed, well-respected and brilliant minds in the field of Student Affairs. The incredibly caring faculty was so hands on, involved and invested in my journey to becoming a professional, that in addition to successfully completing the program, I was able to witness and understand what it truly means to be committed to student success. As for the coursework, it's structured in such a way to build upon itself, and work together to give you a range of expertise in assessment, student development theory, history, college structure, professional ethical standards and the knowledge and skill set to assist you in whatever comes your way in the collegiate environment. As diverse as the curriculum was, I valued that in every course, I was able to explore my passion for International Education and working with students, and discover how student development could be put into practice to reach far beyond the campus of MSU at the same time that my colleagues were following their own passions in athletics, first generation, learning communities, multiculturalism, and academia. Through my course work and practical experiences at the Office of Study Abroad and the Office for International Students and Scholars, I was able to finally define and visualize what I wanted to do with my life. That, in and of itself was priceless. I now have direction, goals and an understanding of how I can serve students for the rest of my life. I gained a whole network of colleagues I can call upon for professional advise, insight and support. I gained a deep respect for myself, for my colleagues, my mentors and an overwhelming and profound appreciation for the profession of Student Affairs and the integral work that we do. Choosing MSU, as serendipitous as it was, was paramount to my success and current work with students. Thanks MSU!
Class of 2008
Jeff Grimm, Class of 2008
Residential College Director
I am so proud to be a SAA Spartan. My experience in the Student Affairs Masters program was invaluable in being engaged in a learning community and changing as a professional. The program prepared me not only to be a student affairs educator, but an advocate for higher education, and scholar-practitioner. From the name of HALE, I became a lifelong learner because of the excellent faculty, diversity of peers, practical experience and learner-centered curriculum. In the program I was able to get experience in teaching a 3-credit leadership course, while pursuing a passion of public policy by interning at the Presidents Council, State Universities of Michigan. The SAA program taught me the foundations of the field of student affairs while giving you the opportunity to explore practical applications in multiple contexts.
The faculty in the HALE program are leaders in their scholarly areas, yet supportive mentors and role models. They helped me grow as a professional by challenging my assumptions, supporting my personal transition into Michigan and MSU, and constantly challenging me to be a better practitioner. The SAA program has a lot to offer, but for me, the faculty in HALE are one of the main reasons I recommend the program to others and am proud to be an SAA Spartan.
Jenni Lindberg, Class of 2008
Loyola Marymount University
I am currently living in Los Angeles California working as a Resident Director at Loyola Marymount University. As a Resident Director, I oversee a building of 180 women, supervise 6 Resident Advisors, advise Hall Council, and serve as a committee member on several departmental/divisional committees. Due to my interest and concentration in Leadership Development, I successfully proposed and was granted permission to introduce a new Theme Community to my residence hall scheduled to kick-off Fall 2010. The LEAD (Leadership, Empowerment and Achievement in Desmond) community is designed to enhance leadership experiences by creating a shared living environment committed to personal growth and development of female leaders. I have worked closed with LMU's Department of Student Leadership and Development to not only launch this residential program but also create a specialized section and Leadership Institute Course curriculum for the women of the building that I will be teaching in the fall as well.
Above are only some of the experiences and opportunities that I have been afforded due, in large part, to the standard of excellence learned and adopted from the SAA program at MSU. Whether pulling from theory to create the proposal for the LEAD community or calling mentors, colleagues and friends for resources, I have truly come to value the community of scholars MSU SAA promotes and fosters. Beyond the learning environment, I believe that my Practicum experiences helped shape her future career path. While balancing the MSU SAA course load, a Grad-Assistantship and a Practicum can be time intensive, the commitment to the process can lay a path in the future you did not see at the time. Another valuable MSU SAA take-away for me was developing a lasting and impactful relationship with a mentor. This person has served not only as a support system and sounding board, but also has challenged me in my career path and provided invaluable perspective on various work and life situations. I am grateful for the time at Michigan State University and am proud to be a part of the wide-reaching SAA network of Spartans.
Class of 2007
Andrea Hart, Class of 2007
Student Activities Specialist
University of New Mexico
Michigan State University's SAA program was integral in shaping me into the professional I am today. While I valued all aspects of my education, several components stand out as unique and defining experiences. The first is the practicum program, where I had the opportunity to teach a 3-credit undergraduate leadership course with another graduate student. I learned how to meet students where they were at while challenging them to learn and grow. I am a better student activities professional, advisor, supervisor, and public speaker because of that semester spent teaching. Another incredibly valuable component to the SAA program is the 1-credit seminar that students take each semester. The focus of the seminar changed each term, from helping first semester students ease into graduate school to finally helping us through a job search process.
The strength in the SAA program lies not only in the superior education the students receive, but in the community of scholars the department has created. The professors are experienced practitioners and passionate about student affairs education. I know it is the education and support I received at Michigan State that made it possible for me to take the leap of faith to an institution and culture so different from what I'd known before I moved to New Mexico. All of the conversations we had about institutional culture became very real when I found myself in my first job. I learned to listen and observe first before asking questions and commenting, and as a result, adjusted incredibly well to my new environment. I credit the ease of that transition and my success to the skills and values I developed during my time in the SAA program and I cannot be more proud to be affiliated with such a wonderful community of people.
Krista A. Kronstein, Class of 2007
Assistant Director of Residence Life - Coordinator of Residential Programs & Living and Learning Communities
The theory-to-practice structure of the program was one of the most valuable aspects of my SAA experience. The connections between my coursework and my practica in the Campus Programs & Organizations office at Albion College & teaching EAD 315 Student Leadership Training at MSU, as well as my NODA Internship at the University of Texas at Arlington and assistantship as an Assistant Hall Director in Mason-Abbott Halls, really helped me feel prepared for many different kinds of jobs in the field of Student Affairs.
I came to MSU from a very small, residential liberal arts institution and was pleased to find that there were other students in my co-hort with a similar undergraduate experience. It could have been an overwhelming experience but the diversity of my co-hort made it one that was supportive and challenging. Those relationships, and the relationships I formed with the faculty in the program, are the ones that truly made the experience. Without that challenge and support, I do not think I would be the professional I am today.
Jason Ratliff, Class of 2007
Doctoral student in Educational Leadership
Bowling Green State University
Cohort Model: I value the support and the lessons I learned from the members of my diverse cohort. I mistakenly assumed that most of the students in my cohort would be very similar to me, and value similar things however the different prospective I learned from my cohort has been a valuable asset to me in my practice, and has allowed me to add greater perspective and value to the universities that have employed me.
Academics: The courses were entrenched in current research, and the SAA program allowed us to use the campus as a incubator for professional growth. I appreciated that my experience there was practical and intellectual.
Faculty and Administrators: The faculty and administrators were invested in me as a future colleague in Student Affairs. Their investment did not only apply to me as a student, but also as an individual as they frequently asked how my spouse and children were fairing and included them in the social aspect of the program.
Class of 2005
L. Michelle Vital, Class of 2005
Doctoral Student; Higher, Adult, and Lifelong Education program
Assistant Hall Director, Department of Residence Life
Michigan State University
The Student Affairs Administration program was an excellent fit for me! I wanted to be fully immersed in my graduate program and took advantage of the many opportunities available. The most valuable experience while in the SAA program was the opportunity to connect theory to practice. I had an assistantship in the Department of Residence Life, taught two semesters of the EAD 315 leadership course, was a practicum student in Judicial Affairs for a few semesters, and ended my time with a practicum with the Vice President of Student Affairs. In addition, I did an independent study researching college students with invisible physical disabilities and attended and presented at regional and national conferences. All of these experiences were a great complement to what I was learning in the classroom. Whether it was Student Development Theory, Foundations of Post Secondary Education, or Building a Learning Organization, the SAA curriculum ensured that I had the theoretical framework to be the most effective and prepared while working with students. I continually draw upon the concepts that I learned both in and out of the classroom, which has helped me to become the practitioner that I am today.