This blog was originally posted on ryersonstudentaffairs.com on April 12, 2017 as part of the spring 2017 #RoadtoCACUSS event.
#RoadtoCACUSS 2017 is a wellness journey that will culminate in Student Affairs Professionals from across the country cycling from Toronto to Ottawa to attend the annual Canadian Association of College and University Student Services conference. The bike trip begins on June 4, 2017 but the journey will start long before that as participants train, prepare, and gear up for the adventure.
On my first day of work with Ryerson Student Affairs, I was told about the #RoadToCACUSS by two of my team members during our one-on-one meetings. At first, I thought I was hearing a nice anecdote about an adventure that a few people had dreamed up. When Jen told me that I was welcome to join, I thought she was being polite and trying to make me feel included. Later in the day, when I met with Kait and she explained the #RoadToCACUSS ride a bit more, I realized that they were serious.
By the end of that first day on the job, I had committed to riding in the #RoadToCACUSS.
The news that “Samantha is going to ride!” was shared with other team members and I found myself genuinely smiling and nodding my head. In the days following, I wondered to myself, “Why am I not questioning this decision or feeling the regret of joining so quickly?”
I knew that one day I would look back at this time in my mid-twenties when I accomplished this amazing bike trip of 475 km in 5 days. This type of challenge doesn’t come around often, and I knew that I had to seize the opportunity.
Jen has checked-in with me a few times to make sure I don’t awkwardly feel obligated to join the #RoadToCACUSS, reassuring me by asking, “You know you don’t have to do this, right?” I can confidently and emphatically respond to her that I’m fully committed under my own cognizance.
I’ve been embraced into this fantastic community of go-getters that is empowering themselves to take on this challenge. Their motivation and excitement shines through all of them—and it’s contagious!
Transition into Student Affairs
It’s a unique and unexpected feeling on the first day at a new job to immediately feel like your team has your back. And I say this wholeheartedly.
At the time of writing this, I’ve been working in Student Affairs for six weeks. In this short time, I’ve experienced so many fulfilling opportunities to create, explore, and join. My horizons have greatly expanded in this avenue of higher education, and I know this is only the beginning.
I didn’t know how much I would enjoy working in Student Affairs. I enjoyed my experience at Ryerson as a graduate student and after finishing my Master of Arts in Immigration and Settlement Studies, I was looking for opportunities to be part of the Ryerson community. In October 2016, I began a position as Outreach Coordinator with DiverseCity onBoard which is a non-profit under the umbrella of Ryerson. In February 2017, I began my current position as ISS and UHIP Administrator in the Department of Student Life.
Learning that Student Affairs is so huge and instrumental to the learning and development in post-secondary education has shaped my awareness of the importance of putting students first.
Why I decided to join the #RoadToCACUSS
I love higher education. The learning and growth that I have experienced through higher education has shaped my life in more ways that I could have imagined. It brings me such joy to see others learn and grow during their time at University. I also recognize that mental health is a major challenge for many University students, which can prevent them from achieving their goals and flourishing to their full capabilities. I want to end the stigma of mental health on postsecondary campuses, so that students are empowered to be able to access the help need in order to reach their infinite potential.
I always have goals or achievements in mind. I keep them fluid depending on where life takes me and how I’m feeling. I also measure a lot of my process based on how I feel about my accomplishments, rather than using tangible measurements.
Setting the goal of being physically and mentally ready to ride a bike from Toronto to Ottawa over June 4–8 was the perfect way to personally challenge myself. It’s a goal that is set in stone, cannot be put off, and has other people holding me accountable. And I don’t want to look bad in front of my new co-workers. All of these contribute to my motivation to build physical and mental strength in order to be successful on my #RoadToCACUSS.
As a newcomer to Student Affairs, I have so much room for growth and development. Continuous learning and development is also important at all stages of life and careers. The individuals on the Ride are all at different stages in their Student Affairs careers, many of them having years of experience under their belt, unlike myself. Figuring out how I fit into all this has been enabled by the adjustability and adaptability of the Ride, the PERMA-V model, and the ThriveRU workbook, all of which play an important role in the process of setting my goals and accomplishing them.
The team has been preparing for the Ride since early 2016. They’ve worked hard throughout the planning and training process. They have enough experience to be able to give tips and know what to expect on the ride itself. I’m feeling significantly less prepared, but encouraged to get myself in gear to be ready in time. My motivation comes from generous donors on my fundraising page, my fearless team members, and from within myself to accomplish my goal of completing the Ride.
Connections the Ride to Student Affairs Work
It’s a major leap outside of my comfort zone to join the Ride. I knew that I could make this commitment because the benefits would outweigh the hardship and I also knew that I would be supported to keep going when things feel awkward and unfamiliar. Though I’m not too far removed from living out the student experience, it’s important to remind myself to empathize with the feelings that students experience when they are in an unfamiliar and new situation. As Student Affairs Professionals we facilitate opportunities to stretch and challenge our students to reach their potential in ways that they never imagined before, while also creating an environment that when failure happens they will be encouraged to continue on by growing from their mistakes. The connections between the #RoadToCACUSS team challenge and our day-to-day work are some of the elements of the Ride that make it so special.
The team-building and strength of relationships have been evident during my onboarding process with the #RoadToCACUSS team. There is such a sense that we will all be able to use our own unique strengths and gifts to support each other throughout the journey of the Ride. I hope that this same sentiment is felt by our students at Ryerson: that as Student Affairs Professionals, we will use our strengths and gifts to support them throughout the journey of their student experience during their University education.
There is so much power in being surrounded by people that believe in you.
The Journey of Growth
For me, making mistakes is a way of knowing that I am pushing myself hard enough. Taking on the challenge of the Ride will absolutely bring on mistakes and failure along the way, but if I keep the big picture goal in mind, I know that the experiences along this journey will cultivate growth. Failure, motivation, and a positive attitude—these will cultivate growth.
Sometimes not knowing what you’re getting yourself into can have the most positive results. Having open expectations leaves room for both success and failure. It also allows for challenges to be worked through in alternative ways, leading to success through learning and adapting.
Even though I’m slightly unsure about being a new Student Affairs Professional, about training for the ride, and about being on the actual #RoadToCACUSS Ride with my team, I know that all will be well. And sometimes the best way to overcome is to just go for it!
It is not the critic who counts; not the [one] who points out how the strong [person] stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the [one] who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends [theirself] in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if [they] fail, at least fails while daring greatly, so that [their] place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat. – Theodore Roosevelt