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Award Winner Reflections: Dr. Zauyah Waite

by on June 29, 2012

Today’s reflection comes from the winner of the Scott Goodnight Award for Outstanding Performance as a Dean, Dr. Zauyah Waite, Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students at Chatham University.

I am humbled and honored to be asked to share some of my thoughts with all of you regarding my recent selection as the winner of the Scott Goodnight Award for the NASPA II region.  One of the lessons my late father taught me was that no matter what job or position I hold, I will always be successful in my chosen vocation if I perform my work to the best of my abilities and with pride and enthusiasm.  Twenty-two years ago, I was blessed to travel from my home country of Malaysia to pursue a graduate degree in the United States.  Upon my arrival, I remember how excited I was to obtain a student position folding towels in the recreation center at the University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC) and set my sights on being the best towel folder the recreation center had ever seen.  My career and my life have changed dramatically since those days but my drive to do my job to the best of my abilities remains as strong as ever.

Two years later, I got my first professional position in Student Affairs at UMKC and recollect with great detail our Vice President for Student Affairs, Dr. Gary Widmar receiving the Scott Goodnight Award.  In the back of my mind, I said to myself that someday I hope to follow in his footsteps.  That day happened earlier this month in Buffalo, NY when I had the honor of receiving this distinguished award. I can honestly say that this award means a great deal to me and I am thankful to all of the wonderful colleagues who make up this great region for selecting me plus everyone at Chatham University who engineered the nomination.

At this time, I would like to take this opportunity to share five core beliefs that I strive to bring to my job as the VPSA and Dean of Students:

  • Every student should be accepted as an individual and given the opportunity to grow in service, in academic and social skills, in self-awareness, and in personal discipline through diversified educational experiences.
  • Every student should want to exercise their civic rights and responsibilities, be committed to giving back and living sustainably so they can leave the Earth in a better place.
  • Every student needs to take the initiative to create their life the way they want it and to embrace the opportunities that come their way.
  • Every student must be able to forgive themselves and accept their imperfections as valuable learning tools moving forward.
  • Every student needs to accept their bodies as they are and as they change – taking care of their physical bodies in healthy and loving ways.

These beliefs help to keep me grounded and rooted and when I am asked to make a difficult decision, I always reflect upon these beliefs for guidance (and they never let me down).

To end, here are a few of my practices  that I hope you will find effective as you grow and serve this honorable profession we all call Student Affairs . . .

  • No matter what, always be honest not only with yourself but everyone you come in contact with.
  • Hire a team of student centered experts who play to your strengths and surround yourself with those who compliment your weaknesses.
  • Above all else, your faith and your family are always your priority and remember to limit “shop talk” at home to no more than 10 minutes a day (this is especially hard if your spouse or significant other works in the same field (I KNOW!).
  • And lastly, no matter what, don’t take yourself too seriously.  Learn to laugh at your mistakes and accept criticism with an open mind.

Stay focused on your beliefs and remember…if you fold towels better than all the other towel folders you will be recognized and with that recognition comes opportunities.   Enjoy the rest of summer and the best to you,  Zauyah

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