Award Winner Reflections: Dr. Tori Haring-Smith
This week, we will be highlighting reflections from our 2012 award winners. Our first reflection comes from the winner of our President’s Award, Dr. Tori Haring-Smith, president of Washington & Jefferson College.
It was a real honor to be with all of you who attended the regional meeting and an even greater honor to receive your President’s Award. Being recognized by an organization dedicated to student affairs means a lot to me because I believe that everyone employed at a small college like Washington & Jefferson College is in the business of student affairs, or should be, and it is the president’s job to lead by example, by becoming truly involved in the life of the campus. Of course, it’s not easy to get to every athletic contest, to attend every program generated by the Diversity Programming Board, or to respond to every request that I attend a fraternity event, but I believe that it is important that I try.
Those of us in education share one very important characteristic—we care about students. They are the core of the enterprise. We would not exist without them, and they give our jobs–our lives–meaning. We work to ensure that they learn and grow so that they can build a better society for all our children and grandchildren. What an amazing collective effort we all contribute to—together we work to build the future.
When I’ve had a bad day in an administrative sense–a grant is lost, a donor disappointed, a staff member disgruntled–an encounter with a student reminds me why I do this work. After participating in a series of particularly tedious meetings this past semester, I was feeling particularly dejected, but crossing campus, I stopped and talked to some students who were just hanging out on the patio of the Student Center. I asked what they were doing, and they told me about their classes and how excited they were to be doing a particular project. They told me about their summer plans for challenging internships and travel. The conversation relaxed me and reminded me that those meetings were serving a necessary function—they were helping the College find a common purpose and a common goal so that we could all work together to serve our students better.
I am thankful that, as president, I have the privilege of living on campus. I know that sleeping just a block from your office might not suit everyone, but I like feeling the rhythms of the campus around me. I like it when students wave as they pass the house. And I know that if they have a real emergency, they feel as if they can knock on the door and I will be there to help and guide them.
Living on campus provides the opportunity to get to know our students well. I have lunch with them, talk with them in my open office hours, and follow their college careers. By the time the senior class walks by me at commencement, I know where many of these students are going with their lives. I have seen them grow from shy, inarticulate but eager first-year students into confident, articulate, and energized citizens of the world. Shared moments with students remind me that it is all worthwhile. We have the greatest jobs on earth!
Would you like to nominate someone for the President’s Award, or any of our other regional awards? Click here!