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Running Head: STRENGTHS

Learning Outcome Narrative: Strengths


Karina Nascimento Saunders
Seattle University
March 2019
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Introduction

I entered the Student Development Administration (SDA) Program, a year into my job at

Seattle University. It was my first time working in higher education, and I felt simultaneously

confident in my position and completely unprepared. As an undergraduate student I struggled in

the face of a culture of academic competition, a new diagnosis of a learning disability, and

consistent imposter syndrome. It took a job at a service-learning center in Washington, D.C. with

a supervisor who encouraged my creative brain for me to begin to carve out a holistic career

path. My time as a program manager at the center sparked my interest in working with college

students in ways that connect community engagement and personal development. These spaces

bridged the privileged with the marginalized into a deeper partnership that sought communal

justice. When I moved to Seattle in 2014, I knew that I wanted to work with students, but I knew

nothing about student affairs as a field. My time in the SDA program has coincided with

becoming a new higher education professional as the Assistant Director of the Fostering Scholars

program. This narrative is a glimpse into my strengths as a new professional in the field as I gain

confidence applying my past professional experiences to higher education.

My overarching strength theme: Leadership that builds bridges is examined through

three subthemes: Journeying with students in meaningful relationships, social justice mission,

and creating authentic community. These subthemes illustrate my ongoing development as a

professional social justice educator new to the field of higher education.

Journeying With Students in Meaningful Relationships

(LO 2, 4, ARTIFACTS: A, B, C3 D, E)
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I entered the SDA program new to student affairs work, but firm in my ability to form

supportive relationships. These relationships became more impactful as I gained knowledge of

student issues and enhanced my understanding of diversity and justice within the Jesuit context.

Understanding students and student issues. In order to develop meaningful relationships with

students in the complexities of their experiences, and affirm their identity development, it is

imperative to be involved in campus life, familiar with current events affecting students, and

commit to ongoing learning of different student populations (LO 2). From past experiences

building relationships with students, I found it natural to invest in them by showing up for their

performances, hosting outings, and finding ways to show my support and be involved in campus

life (Artifact A, B). My time in the SDA program taught me to apply theories such as Yosso’s

Cultural Community Wealth, Schlossberg’s Transition Theory, and Kimberly Crenshaw’s

concept of Intersectionality, to better inform the ways in which I support students from different

populations as they navigate obstacles (Patton, Renn, Guido & Quaye, 2014; Yosso, 2005;

Crenshaw, 1995). When a Fostering Scholars student of color is asked to move to a different

dorm by a white housing director, and the housing director is confused by the student’s escalated

response, I am better equipped to support the student because of these theories. The concept of

intersectionality explored in SDAD 5300: Foundations of the Student Affairs Profession,

teaches me that the student’s race, identity, gender, and experience in the foster care system are

all affecting their response, not just one part of their identity. Schlossberg’s 4 S’s of transition

theory supported by Yosso’s Community Cultural Wealth gave me tools to use the student’s

assets to support the difficult baggage of transition that comes with their proximity to the foster

care system (Patton et. al., 2014; Yosso, 2005).


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Artifact D: Letter from Supervisor demonstrates my commitment and strengths in

understanding the complex issues that affect different student populations and finding ways to

advocate for their success. With each new cohort of Fostering Scholars students, I am confronted

with a new urgency to learn about current student issues, and am bolstered by new

understandings of theory to better coach these dynamic students.

Understanding and fostering diversity, justice and a sustainable world formed by a global

perspective and Jesuit Catholic Tradition. Journeying with students is defined in my

dimensions of LO 4, first as: walking with one another as we discover the ways in which our

privileged and marginalized identities show-up in the world. In weekly meetings with one

Fostering Scholar student, we discussed the ways in which the movies Get Out and Black

Panther made him rethink his identity. Our conversations were supported by my new knowledge

of identity development theory from SDAD 5400: Theory, Research and Practice. Cross and

Fhagen-Smith’s Model of Black Identity Development allowed me to navigate “an event that

causes conflict in their understanding of their racial identity” alongside the student (Patton et al.,

2014).

Integrated into the fabric of my understanding of “journeying with students” is the second

dimension: ongoing advocacy to make the institution more equitable for all students by

supporting them as they seek justice on campus. Artifacts A, D, and E describe my involvement

in the King County Passport Consortium, a network of professionals supporting the educational

pipeline for youth in the foster care system. Through this work I aim to advocate for policy

changes and better support for students at institutions across the state, and partner with students

who experienced foster care to seek justice at their institutions.


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The third dimension, seeking ways to respond, is evident in Artifact C3, in

recommendations that support the increase of equity and diversity programing for undocumented

and veteran students. Implementing student-led trainings on undocumented student experience is

one way to increase meaningful relationships with this student population.

Social justice mission ( LO 3, 5 ARTIFACTS: A, B, C1, C2, D)

Integrated into bridge-building is a dedication to social justice. Through this personal

ethic, I aim to be a leader that exhibits integrity and a commitment to adapting student services

that empower the marginalized and undo oppression.

Exhibiting professional integrity and ethical leadership in professional practice. My first

dimension of LO 3 is: establishing a practice of honesty and integrity with students and

colleagues. Part of the social justice mission is establishing a practice of honesty and integrity

about the identities I hold. I work with students who have experienced the foster care system.

This is an identity I do not share and it is important that I am honest about it. In Check &

Connect I spend time naming the power and privileges I carry into the space as heteronormative,

cis-gender, U.S. citizen, who did not experience the foster care system and am a staff member of

the university, the space I hold is different than that of my students. Many of my identities

separate me from them. I am better able to journey with my students if I can model vulnerability

and awareness of our differences. By naming the power dynamic that naturally exists in the

relationship between staff and student, I am bringing them into a space where they feel

comfortable talking to me and journeying alongside me. I am also acknowledging that I will

never be able to fully understand the experience of the Fostering Scholars which lets students

know that I understand they are the owners of their own stories.
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The second dimension of LO 3: working from a place of authenticity supported by

ongoing self-reflection, reinforces lifelong-learning needed for a social justice mission. Writing

an autoethnography in SDAD 5590: The American Community College and the Devil’s

Advocate paper in SDAD 5740: College Access and Equity (Artifact C1) challenged me to

reflect on the educational and economic privileges I carry into my practice. When I researched

who benefitted from AP credit (C1), I realized the false assumption I held about the merit of AP

students, without even considering accessibility of AP classes. This reflection has changed how I

coach perspective students. I am more conscious to point out the assets of student’s academic

background with or without AP classes, and intentionally connect them to academic resources to

support their transition to the college workload.

My final dimension of LO 3 is: collaborative leadership that elevates others. In SDAD

5750: Best Practices in Student Services I interviewed professionals working in the intersection

of student affairs and community engagement. I was inspired by one professional who shared

their mission to convince the institution to recognize and compensate non-profit community

members for their role in educating students.

Adapting student services to specific environments and cultures. In order to seek justice as

an educator in higher education, it is important to recognize constant changing realities in the

world, the historical context of the community, and to equip students with their own self-

awareness and value so that they can engage in the evolving world (LO 5). My resume (Artifact

A) and personal mission statement (Artifact B), describe how as a program manager of a

service-learning center in D.C., I fought to create programing that taught visiting high school and

college students the city’s history of racial oppression before sending them to serve people

experiencing homelessness. In so doing, I embodied the second dimension of LO 5. Now, as a


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student affairs practitioner with a social justice mission, I learn to seek the historical, present, and

future context of the community by discerning ways to foster belonging and create spaces for

students to engage in different contexts. Working with Fostering Scholar students stretched my

ability to adapt my work. Suddenly, instead of working with students with privilege teaching

about urban poverty, I was working with students with difficult backgrounds now experiencing

the privileged environment of higher education. This is how I live out the first dimension.

In Artifact C2, I used the Jesuit practice of the Examen (Sheldrake, 1991) to reflect on

place-based community engagement as a method of bridging community and campus.

Throughout this reflection I ask questions about how to balance student growth while

emphasizing community voice. This paper (C2), and letter of promise (Artifact D) illustrates my

commitment to the third dimension, equipping students with awareness to engage justly in the

world around them.

Creating authentic community ( LO 6, 10 ARTIFACTS: A, C2, D, F)

Through journeying with students in meaningful relationships framed by a social justice

mission I hope to create authentic community that bridges barriers. My journey in the SDA

program has supported this effort by developing my skills in leadership and collaboration that

challenge me to be rooted in my professional identity.

Developing and demonstrating skills in leadership and collaboration. As a social justice

educator who believes in the value of creating authentic community, LO 6 is key. I demonstrate

the first dimension: building university and community wide relationships that foster community,

through my leadership of the two-day Fostering Scholars orientation that brings together a new

cohort of scholars and introduces them to resources on campus. This retreat and the letter from
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my supervisor, Artifact D, also demonstrates the second dimension, a practice of collaboration

Through ongoing relationships with partners on student development and academic side of the

university I create a comprehensive program where students can get to know leaders that will

enhance their time in school.

The final dimension of LO 6, that supports the creation of authentic community is an

awareness of intersectionality and personal story in leadership. Through an interview for SDAD

5900: Student Development Capstone I learned the importance of incorporating Jones and

McEwen’s Model of Multiple Dimensions of Identities when coaching students to allow them to

see their own leadership qualities as part of their multiple identities (Jones and McEwen, 2000).

Establishing and enhancing professional identity. My experience in the SDA program gave

me practice bridge-building as a form of leadership to enhance my professional identity

demonstrating LO 10. I define LO 10 as: Networking to expand partnerships and establish

identity in content area, seeking professional development experiences that advance professional

practice, and creating communities of learning and mentorship. With my Independent Study,

SDAD 5960: Place-Based Community Engagement, I attended the Place-Based Justice

Institute, which expanded my network, helped me begin to see how my past experiences in

community engagement fueled my current practice and career hopes that bridge community

engagement and student development (Artifacts A, D, F). Artifact C2 illustrates this continued

discernment as I question the development of my professional identity in place-based work. The

Social Justice Training Institute continued my learning from PBJI and showed me the

importance of a professional development experience that would both advance my practice, such

as the skill of Panning, and establish my identity (Obear, 2018). SJTI modeled an authentic

community of learners by building trust and creating a container where participants could share
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about our experiences understanding how race impacts our personal and professional being.

Through the authentic community of practice, I built from the experiences of PBJI and SJTI I am

more confident articulating my professional identity and future goals and am more equipped to

bring people together to form authentic community. Artifact F demonstrates the final dimension

of LO 10, and my future hope to continue in these partnerships and ongoing mentorship.

Conclusion

The SDA program empowers me to articulate my values and strengthen my identity. I am

grateful for the opportunities to develop as a holistic educator. By journeying with students in

meaningful relationships---relationships that are strengthened by a commitment to social justice

mission, authentic community is created. My path to student affairs may be untraditional but, I

now hold a deeper understanding of how my past has prepared me to be a bridge-builder on the

campus and in the local community. I look forward to advancing my professional identity

through ongoing reflection, and collaborative learning.


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References
Christie, N., & Gauvreau, M. (2004). Mapping the margins. Montreal, CA: McGill-Queen's

University Press. Retrieved from http://deslibris.ca/ID/400261

Jones, S. R., & McEwen, M. K. (2000). A conceptual model of multiple dimensions of

identity. Journal of College Student Development, 41(4), 405. Retrieved

from https://search.proquest.com/docview/1416092890

Patton, L. D., Renn, K. A., Guido, F. M., & Quaye, S. J. (2016 Student Development In College:

Theory, Research, and Practice. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Sheldrake, P. (1991). The Way of Ignatius Loyola: Contemporary approaches to the Spiritual

exercises (1st U.S. ed., Series IV--Study aids on Jesuit topics; no. 13). St. Louis: Institute

of Jesuit Sources.

Yosso, T.J. (2005). Whose culture has capital? A critical race discussion of community cultural

wealth. Race Ethnicity and Education, 8(1), 69-82