Vicki L. Brown
I was supposed to be a teacher. Growing up, I had a classroom in the basement. I had a chalkboard, chalk, desks, textbooks, homework assignments, pens, pencils, paper—you name it, I had it! My brother and sister called me “Miss Brown.” All I ever wanted to be was an elementary school teacher—until I went to college.
As an elementary education major in college, I participated in a variety of classes—classes on literacy, math and science, philosophies of teaching, child development theory, principles of education, foundations of classroom behavior, and a whole list of others. We learned how to write a lesson plan, manage a classroom, how to set up a classroom, and much, much more.
In addition to my studies, I got involved in campus life. I joined the swimming and diving team, participated in campus activities, and joined clubs. I served as a captain of the swimming and diving team, became an Orientation Leader and a Resident Assistant, and completely immersed myself in the college experience. It was through these co-curricular activities that I was introduced to the world of higher education and a potentially new career choice for myself.
Through my academic and co-curricular activities, I gained valuable knowledge from all those I came in contact with—my peers, professors, Residence Hall Directors, and many college administrators. They encouraged me to explore what it was that I really wanted to do with my life. The more I got involved in my college experience, the more I learned about myself: what I’m good at, what I’m not good at, what I wanted to, and what I didn’t want to do.
As I started to sort through my options, I continued my studies, receiving both a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in elementary education. While attending graduate school, I also worked as a Graduate Residence Hall Director. It was during that time when I finally made the decision to pursue a career in higher education administration/student affairs administration and leave my plans of being an elementary school teacher behind.
The decision wasn’t as difficult as one might think. When some listen to my story, I often hear “you’ve wasted all that time and money…” But, the truth is I gained valuable, lifelong skills from the people I met, the classes I took, the jobs I’ve had, and the activities I involved myself in. Each and every skill you acquire is transferable. This is perhaps the best lesson I’ve ever learned in college.
The countless lesson plans I had to write for my education classes and student teaching have helped me prepare practice plans as the head coach for the men’s and women’s swimming and diving team. The skills I learned while planning programs and activities for my residents as a Resident Assistant, Hall Director, and Area Coordinator have helped me plan campus events as the Director of Student Activities in the Center for Student Leadership & Involvement. The classroom management techniques I learned in college have helped me to manage my office, staff, team, committees, etc. The communication and development theories I’ve learned have taught me how to have meaningful conversations with others and how best to meet their needs.
Each and every skill you learn throughout your academic, personal, and professional career are valuable and transferable. Do not let your college degree define who you are but rather, let the knowledge and skills you’ve acquired define who you are.