As this semester comes to an end, this inaugural semester of the Student Life Professional Fellowship program is also wrapping up. The Professional Fellowship program provides full-time Student Life staff with the opportunity to gain professional experience in a different department or functional area in Student Life.
“In conversations with Dr. Cuevas about professional development plans for Divisional staff members, we discussed the possibility of piloting a professional fellowship,” says Jill Zambito, Assistant Vice Chancellor for Student Life, and Professional Fellowship Chair. “Dr. Cuevas fully supported the idea and gave me creative license to create a proposal. The pilot came to life this past Spring semester and now we’re accepting applications for the summer! This fellowship provides staff members options to gain new experiences, contribute to different functional areas/departments, and learn from other professionals. It’s a wonderful way to learn and simultaneously fill gaps in your resume.”
The spring 2021 cohort of fellows included staff from RecSports and University Housing, who held a fellowship in the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Student Life, the Pride Center, and Student Disability Services.
My professional fellowship has been the highlight of my semester. I’ve gained valuable knowledge in a whole new area of Student Life, while also applying my skills to enhancing functional elements in that area. The experience gained through the fellowship is directly applicable to the role I serve in my department. Additionally, I’ve developed a meaningful relationship with my mentor that will surely last beyond my time as a fellow. In short, it’s well worth the time it takes if you’re looking to grow and improve as a professional.
In order to apply for the Student Life Professional Fellowship program, you must be a full-time employee (minimum of one year by the start of the fellowship). A Bachelor’s degree is preferred, but it is not required. You must also have the ability to dedicate four to six hours per week to your fellowship. Hours depend on your goals and objectives and the mentor’s ability to host the staff member. If you are approved, you would have release time from your primary role to fulfill this time expectation.
I have thoroughly enjoyed my professional fellowship with the Pride Center! I have had the opportunity to gain additional experience in supporting LGBTQIA+ students, particularly the QTPOC community through planning various programs and events. Moreover, I am fortunate to have the opportunity to have a mentor/host supervisor that is supportive, patient, knowledgeable, and caring. I definitely recommend pursuing a professional fellowship to anyone who wishes to learn more about a functional area, is looking to gain skills or an experience that they do not already possess that another office/department can provide, and/or anyone who wants to gain (additional) hands-on experience in better supporting a population/community.
The summer 2021 application is now open until May 3. Prior to applying, you must have the approval of your department director/head and Associate/Assistant Vice Chancellor. You will then identify a mentor in the department/unit that you are interested in completing your fellowship. You must have the approval of a department mentor and mentor’s department director, if they separate people, before submitting an application. If you are unsure of who to approach to serve as a mentor, please ask your immediate supervisor/director/AVC for advice – they will be great resources in this process. The fellowship must be consistent with your demonstrated interest and professional goals. Your career plans and goals must fall within the scope of administration in higher education.
Working with Student Disability Services to create events, learn from each other’s areas of work, and reshape our processes to be more inclusive has been instrumental to development as a new professional. The connections I’ve made and the impact we continue to have together remind me why I chose to work in student affairs—to create spaces where students know they have a place and a purpose.