Working in higher education affords a variety of rewards but nothing as meaningful as working with students. Every decision, action, and overall efforts will eventually result in assisting students in achieving their dream of securing an education for their future. This week, I am attending our doctoral residency and opened my calendar to meet with students who might be interested in sharing their student experiences with me or anything else that is on their mind. Most of the students wanted to discuss their dissertation topics, ask questions about the various academics processes, or how they will balance the demands among all the other competing events in their lives. But one student truly took me by surprise with this straightforward question- “Why did you become a Dean?”
My smile could not be contained and my list of reasons was shared in a rapid-fire manner decorated by my giddy high-pitched Texas twang of all the elements that I LOVE about my job. Being a Dean is a leadership honor that I take very seriously and appreciate every day because I work with like-minded colleagues who are passionate about education. Wait. Let me clarify: they are passionate about seeing their students excel and with the intent of creating social change leaders within their respective communities. I am fortunate to be able to speak directly with my students and faculty on any and all issues related to our programs, sharing ideas, or contributions to our community of practice. My passion is helping others and making a difference that helps them achieve their goals. For all of these reasons, and so many more, I truly enjoy the moments of interactions, mentoring, and even sharing war stories about my own educational journey with my “community.”
A big reason for my choice in choosing this career path was largely due to the influence of three faculty members that I had along the way and most importantly, a previous Dean that afforded me the opportunity to realize the importance of education: both in the classroom but also in professional/personal growth. Being a student is more than books, lectures, and exams. It’s about challenging our beliefs, questioning reasoning, and being informed before rushing to judgment. You should grow as a person as you expand your knowledge base- that’s what education is all about!
So my student asked me about being a Dean, but I am really one of them with a few extra years of experience and wonderful opportunities along my way. I was someone who wanted more, worked hard for every degree and learned from the experiences that I have persevered, and have come back to give back to those who are seeking the same journey of enlightenment. My title doesn’t really matter because my heart and passion for the journey lead me to experience so many aspects of being an educator. Never lose sight of your passion, how you incorporate it into your work, the influences and wisdom you can share with others, or how you can appreciate the gifts of those around you. I’m proud to be a Dean, but I’m really an educator at heart.