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ACUHO-I Housing Intern Reflects on Her SBU Experience

Jasmine Whitlow, University of Dayton Jasmine Whitlow, University of Dayton

The  ACUHO-I Housing Internship Program has grown into an annual rite of passage for hundreds of graduate and undergraduate students considering campus housing or student affairs as a career. The number of participating students has risen dramatically in recent years and, when milestones are reached on the process timeline, Facebook and Twitter posts explode with candidates enthusiastically reporting submitting their application, landing an interview, and – most importantly – being selected by a host institution.

The application process for both intern applicants and host institutions opened last month and will be available on the ACUHO-I website until January 13, 2015.  Talking Stick  spoke with six students fresh off their 2014 internship experiences and asked them questions about the work they did, the experiences they had, and if they feel more prepared for the next step of their professional growth. Below are Jasmine Whitlow's responses regarding her experience here at Stony Brook University.

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Please share details about the specific work and projects you tackled during your internship.

My internship experience at Stony   Brook University was handcrafted. Holding a student activities assistantship at my current institution, I wanted to experience the various aspects of housing and residence life to gauge whether or not it was a service area in which I wanted to pursue in my career. As an intern, I was considered a division of student affairs Intern, working closely with the division of campus residences on various projects such as RHA/NRHH training, giving presentations to first-year and transfer students about opportunities to live and learn on campus, cultivating an overnight orientation experience, and collaborating when needed with other interns on projects relating to RA programming, out of-area student initiatives, and adviser training.

Was it intimidating to work on these types of projects or did you feel prepared going in?

Having a student activities and programming background, I felt confident in the projects I was asked to complete. With no former housing and residence life experience, I was able to transfer skills acquired through my previous experiences in planning leadership conferences, event planning, orientation, etc. to help me navigate a different institution, different work styles and skills and a different way of operation.

The professional staff within the division of campus residences, specifically the professionals I worked with made me feel valued. This feeling allowed me to try new things, be myself, and to ultimately successfully complete the projects assigned with no stress. While, yes I was a bit fearful in the beginning not knowing much about what it takes to work in housing and residence life, my experience allowed me to see and explore the various possibilities.

Have you had a chance to apply something you learned at your internship into your work or classes so far this year?

As a second-year grad student who will begin the job search very soon, I have been able to think more broadly about how the service areas provide various opportunities that are similar, yet very different. Since I don't work in housing and residence life in my grad assistantship, most of the projects that I worked on were focused in that arena. However, with working in student activities at a campus that is highly residential, I have been thinking and discussing with various professionals in housing and residence life about the new residential curriculum, what programming looks like in HRL, and how student activities can maximize its participation with students who live in the halls. 

In my classes as we are talking about potential service areas, I have been able to use my experience this summer to talk broadly about institutional fit, passion, and the possibilities that are available within housing and residence life. I have also been able to use what I learned into cultivating presentations and conversations for local conferences and thinking about the programs we provide students and how that contributes to their overall experience and development.

What were some of the steps — formal and informal — that your host institution took to orient you to the job and make you feel welcome?

Once I accepted the position to be an intern at Stony Brook, my supervisor sent weekly intern tasks for us to answer. Once I came on campus, I was welcomed with open arms. Myself, along with another intern, arrived early and we were invited to a campus residences summer social where I was able to meet fellow residence hall directors, quad directors, and campus residences staff. This event set the tone for the summer for me because I didn't feel like an outsider. I was welcomed, they showed interest in my story and what I hoped to gain from this experience. Once the rest of the interns arrived, that following Monday we had day full of orientation. We learned a lot about the division, key players and went over expectations. There was never a moment where I felt like I was not a SeaWolf. I felt welcomed right off the bat and knew it was going to be a summer I would never forget.

One thing that I was appreciative about was the fact that professional staff wanted to show us what Long Island and New York had to offer. We were able to experience some social night where current housing staff went out to dinner with us or the movies and it truly made a difference in the group morale. As interns we understood the boundaries, but also valued the time spent with professional staff to show us all the great gems of the city.

Was there any sort of capstone event or project that you did to wrap up your internship?

While  there was nothing formal, I was getting credit for this internship experience. I had to write journals frequently and document my experience so that my fellow cohort mates knew what I was doing in New York. At Stony Brook, we did an evaluation at the end and talked about major takeaways. For me this experience has a profound effect on my perception of housing and residence life. Each of the interns also got to sit down with the associate director for residential programs to wrap up the experience. Since we worked on various projects throughout the summer, meeting deadlines and ultimately sending in final products or attending and facilitating orientation sessions and overnight orientation, was my capstone.

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