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KC Wednesday: The First Few Months as a Graduate Assistant in Fraternity and Sorority Life

by on December 5, 2012

This KC Wednesday entry comes to us from the Fraternity and Sorority Life Knowledge Community and is written by Jen Tedeschi, Fraternity and Sorority Life Assistant at American University.

Being a graduate assistant for Fraternity and Sorority Life is a great learning experience and since I started in August, here are some of the lessons and struggles I have faced so far.

Interaction with students is something I cherish and the reason why I went into the field, but being only one to two years older than some of my students has made me evaluate how I want to interact with some of my students. What is the line between being their advisor and being their friend? My approach so far has been to be open and honest with them and the results have been that my students, mostly the IFC men that I have been working with, are receptive and positively received.

Since I graduated this past May, I noticed I tend to compare my undergrad institution with the institution where I work. Comparing, in general, is not a bad thing to do. You learn from the different experiences and bring new ideas and perspectives, but it is the constant comparing, “Why do you do it that way?” or “I like how we did it at my undergrad institution”. When talking with students, they reminded me that my current institution is not like my undergrad and they’re right. Every institution is different and the culture is something that I needed to observe first and then assimilate.

The best part of my job so far has been advising the IFC on campus. Working with these men has taught me a lot and has been an overall rewarding experience. With them I have learned to celebrate the small victories and think of different approaches to working with men. I’ve learned to present things to them little by little and setting a standard of what I expect from the start. For now, it has been responding to e-mail in a proper amount of time and completing tasks. I know that if they can do the simple, mundane things then when I ask them for something bigger, I can trust that it will get done.

This has certainly been a learning experience I will treasure and that I have immensely enjoyed. Whether you have been in the field for many years or just a few months, it is good to remember how you felt when you first started and to remember why you are a professional in this field. During times of struggle is important to be optimistic and to remind yourself, you are here to create an experience your students would not receive anywhere else. Remember your first day when you had that can-do attitude and you were ready for whatever challenge came your way.

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