Name: Kristina Perrelli
School: University of Rhode Island
Current employer: Currently, I am the Director of New Student Programs and part-time faculty at my institution.
What do you love about working there?
I have most enjoyed collaborating with colleagues and students. I have had opportunities to partner with faculty on research and writing, which has helped me develop as a scholar. I have worked with colleagues on many projects, including a professional development course on social justice for administrators. Students at my institution have gifted me so many learning opportunities that have impacted my teaching and that ways I work and show up in spaces as a student affairs practitioner.
How do you like to spend your free time?
I spend most of my free time with my partner and three children. We like to explore our home state of Rhode Island and to travel. If I have a free hour, I will most likely do some kind of physical exercise or go for a walk. Time outside and exercise are important to my overall well-being. I love reading for fun and to continue learning about all the topics that are exciting to me.
What is your favorite grad school course/experience and why?
I have had so many! My most favorite course experience was an independent study centered on teaching. I engaged in daily reflection while teaching a graduate course in my field. I reflected on my expectations for the experience, what happened in the classroom, and the strengths and challenges I experienced while preparing for and teaching the course. With support from a faculty mentor who is an excellent teacher, I had many learning moments. It helped shape the processes and lenses that continue to inform my teaching.
Who/what inspired you to get involved in higher education?
As a first-generation college student, I was the first in my family to navigate the structures and systems of higher education. The challenges and successes I experienced inside and outside the classroom during my undergraduate years led me to the field of student affairs. When making decisions about my career after college, I knew I wanted to help students navigate college.
What is the most valuable lesson you have learned in your career (so far)?
So far, it is the value of cultivating community. I found the doctoral experience to be isolating at times. I have experienced similar isolation in work spaces. For me, community is built from feeling supported and working to support others. Identifying what supports feels like for me and then cultivating supportive relationships and spaces has proven essential to my ability to move forward in my scholarship and work.
What is on your Higher Ed bucket list?
I hope to someday support and mentor graduate students. So much of my experience has been shaped by others. I feel lucky to have mentoring relationships built on care and mutual respect. I want to continue that tradition.
What advice would you offer to those who are starting to search for grad programs?
I recommend doing what you can to learn about the culture of grad programs of interest to you. Think about the environment you want to learn in and ask questions that help you discern whether you will find that environment in a program. For me, those questions were: What are the mentoring philosophies of program faculty? How is social justice integrated into curriculum and teaching? Does the program create opportunities to engage in meaningful ways with students, faculty, and other scholars in my field? Am I able to take courses from other disciplines if this program does not offer content integral to my scholarship or interests? I also recommend talking with current and former students about their experiences. Ask what they like about the program and how the program can improve.