College Student Personnel program

In Her Own Words: A Personal Reflection of Student Affairs Work For The Next Generation


Shari Rich


Shari Rich, the Director of Applied Learning and Associate Dean of Students at Eureka College, was the Keynote Speaker for the 2013 Student Affairs 101 conference hosted at Western Illinois University this year. So many students and professionals who attended this conference were moved by her words of inspiration pertaining to her philosophy of what it means to be a Student Affairs Professional. This is what Shari shared with us:

When I was asked by Dr. Phyllis McClusky-Titus to give the opening address for the Fall 2013 Student Affairs 101 Conference, I was both honored and humbled, and didn’t hesitate to say yes to this opportunity to give back to my alma mater and the student affairs field, both of which I love dearly. Dr. Loren Logsdon, a wise and respected faculty member at Eureka College, recently shared this quote speaking about his late colleague at her memorial service, Professor Julia Colorado, sharing how important it is to - “Do what you love and love what you do”.   Those that reference ourselves as student affairs professionals and college educators can certainly relate to this quote. I believe that to remain committed to our important work, we must understand that student affairs isn’t really a career field that you simply choose to pursue, but that rather that you are called to. Remaining effective, vital, and purposeful requires resolve, reflection, and a keen appreciation for the role of mentors – past, present, and future. To help me prepare for my remarks, I reached out to a few of my mentors, who were instrumental when I was considering and pursuing student affairs as a career path and that I also consider to be experts in the higher education field. I was confident that their feedback would help me share a message that would be helpful and inspirational for those attending the conference and considering this field. Thank you to Dr. Nancy Evans, Jim Miner, Cathy Onion, and Bethany Rigg. By incorporating their feedback as part of my presentation, I hoped to reinforce the importance of relationships, collaboration, and support systems, especially for longevity for those working in this field. In my remarks, I also wanted to emphasize how now more than ever our field needs to attract and retain dedicated, competent, and passionate professionals. We need to be ready to embrace the challenges facing both our field and higher education as we work in partnership with faculty and other staff on our campuses to make educational opportunities a reality for students from all walks of life and diverse backgrounds. In doing our important work, we also need to take care of ourselves and acknowledge that we cannot help others realize their full potential if we aren’t taking time to recharge and focus on our own development (both personal and professional). In closing, I want to include another quote I shared as part of my presentation. “The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.” – Pablo Picasso. Many of us were called to this field because of those who helped us as undergraduate students in finding our gifts. My hope is that you will continue to remain passionate and rewarded in your important work. Remember you now have the chance to return the favor to the students who now call you their mentor and to help them find their gifts and pursue their passions. After all, giving back is what this field is all about!