This weekend, I flew down to California. I was invited to Sonoma State University, my alma mater, to be a part of a panel on careers English majors pursue after graduation.
I was one of five alumus who spoke about their careers, then afterwords mingled and chatted a bit. One thing someone observed was that all of our stories involved some kind of failure, some kind of not being successful in a goal, then pivoting. The person who observed this noted that people who pursue degrees in English tend to have a more holistic and ongoing view of the world than some other majors that are a little bit more career driven. That gave me a lot of feels.
It was incredible to be part of a small group of people from my undergrad campus talking about our experiences there, then after. It was cool to hear the stories of current undergrads, to support them in a way I do not get to support the students I work with. I have been working through in my head how those relationships are different – I have no answers or responses to that, just that my connection to current student at my undergrad is different than my connection to current students at the institution I work at.
Also: being on a panel was the fulfillment of a goal I have had for a few years. It was a cool experience, and one I hope to repeat soon.
It was also nice to see some friends I have not seen for awhile, catch up in person and have some real fun, honest conversations.
When I returned to Portland on Tuesday, I was at the airport by 11:30 and back in my office by 12:30. I made it through the day, then volunteered on check-in for a scholarship reception.
Earlier last month, I visited the school L teaches at to give a talk to some AVID classes about college. Between those experiences, my experience at SSU this last weekend and getting to congratulate all these hardworking scholarship winners, I am having a lot of feelings about how interconnected the work I do.
I am coming to a space of realization that the work I do for my job occupies a very small part of a huge interconnected process of life — that doing work to encourage the academic growth of middle and high schoolers could ultimately work towards meeting my goals, that the work we do early in students academic careers to support their career development ultimately will sustain them far beyond college not just in college, and the work we do during this short part of their lives is more than just increasing a retention or graduation number, but a huge impact on life.
I have another talk coming up at the end of next week — this one is more specifically about retention work that my department is doing and how that is situated within national trends. Hoping to prepare a large chunk of that in the next few days.