NECPA Graduate Spotlight June – Neda Ghaffarian

Smiling woman in classroom setting with glasses and curly hair.

Name: Neda Ghaffarian

School: Boston College

Program:  Higher Education

Type: Master’s

Current employer:  Office of Urban Outreach Initiatives at Boston College

What do you love about working there?

I have thoroughly enjoyed working in the Office Urban Outreach Initiatives in the Lynch School of Education and Human Development at Boston College, and I have learned so much through this experience. The community in our office and in the Lynch school is is committed to social justice education and pushing forward change within educational systems, and I greatly appreciate how the Jesuit ideals of reflection and working with others in embedded within every part of the school. I have created lifelong friendships during my time at Boston College, and have engaged in critical work with urban Boston youth and communities. Working in Urban Outreach has ignited my passion in working within urban communities, and I intend to continue to do so after I graduate.

How do you like to spend your free time?

In my free time I love to cook, take long walks around Boston, and catch up with friends that I don’t normally get to see.

What is your favorite grad school course/experience and why?

While I have loved every graduate course I have taken at Boston College, I found that Counseling Techniques in Higher Education was one of the most useful and practical courses I have taken. Not having a counseling or psych background before entering the field, I found this course incredibly helpful when working with students, and I applied everything I learned almost immediately.

Who/what inspired you to get involved in higher education?

During my time in undergrad, I spent my extracurricular time mentoring high school students through the college application process. This was the one volunteer activity I devoted my extra time too, and put a great deal of effort and care into it. This experience was the birthplace of my passion for higher education.

What is the most valuable lesson you have learned in your career (so far)?

Listen. Listening to our students and their families is the most important part of working in higher education. Listening to them allows us to put them at the center of our work, which is where they should be!

What is on your Higher Ed bucket list?

As a born-and-raised Warriors basketball fan, a trip to Davidson is definitely at the top of my bucket list! (For those that don’t know, Davidson is the alma mater of Stephen Curry, the star player on the Warriors)

What advice would you offer to those who are starting to search for grad programs?

Higher ed is a big field, and has different facets to it, like student affairs, leadership, and policy and law. Thus, it is important to first identify what you want to study, and why. What are you interested in doing within higher ed? Are you more interested in student-learning and engagement, or are you drawn towards policy and organizational functions? Once you identify what it is you are interested in learning and doing, then you can cater your search to align with these interests.

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

Working in this field has been a blessing, and I am so grateful to be doing something that I love. I admire my colleagues in New England and across the country who are navigating this time of crisis with such dedication so students can continue to have access to college and post-secondary opportunities. Our work is now more lucrative than ever.

I also want to give a very special thank you to Zina Hodge, who nominated me for this feature!

Do you have someone you’d like to be featured as NECPA’s graduate student of the month? Nominate them here!
https://forms.gle/HzuFswPqRtFbfvcS8

Entry-Level Professionals Workshop Review

On Thursday, September 28th, 2017, NECPA, BACHA, and MA-NASPA co-hosted the 2017 Entry Level Professional Workshop (ELPW) at Fitchburg State College in Fitchburg, Massachusetts. This local, annual workshop, co-hosted by NECPA, BACHA, and MA-NASPA is an opportunity for Student Affairs professionals, whether brand new to the field or with a few years’ experience, to engage, learn, and grow through educational sessions and opportunities to network within the region.

Dr. Susan Marine, Associate Professor and Program Director of the Merrimack College’s Higher Education Master’s Program was the keynote speaker.  Dr. Marine talked about how student affairs educators are transforming our college campuses.  Presenters came from Boston College, Boston University, Bentley University, Becker College, Berklee College of Music, Mount Wachusett Community College, UMass Dartmouth, UMass Lowell, and Lead365. There were thirteen sessions covering supervising, career longevity, wellness, professional development and advocacy.

Fifty-six new, mid-level, and senior professionals attended the conference. Conference Co-chair and BACHA New Professionals Co-chair, Jen Stone, summarized the experience best:

“In such a busy time of year, it is incredible to see so many professionals of different levels coming together to develop themselves when it would be easier to not take a day off and stay at their jobs to get work done. Attendance is higher this year, and it shows that professional development is valued in the region. It’s nice to know that a small conference like ELPW can be impactful for professionals of all levels.”

SA Camp 3.0

I am thrilled to have the opportunity to be on the planning committee for Student Affairs Camp 2017 (aka SA Camp 3.0). As a grad student, I participated in the very first SA Camp in 2014 and as a first-year professional I presented as a “Camp Counselor” during SA Camp 2.0 in 2016. It is by far my favorite professional development opportunity.

You may be curious about why anyone would want to spend a weekend, in the summer, at a conference… Well, the entire point is that SA Camp is actually based on an unConference model. SA Campers do yoga, hike, meditate, and enjoy the New England weather. We do these activities while having conversations that range from casual to intense, but are all meaningful, intentional, and encourage us to get outside of our comfort level. Seriously, it is adult summer camp! After each SA Camp I have felt refreshed and ready for the fall semester to begin.

The connections that I have made during SA Camp have had a major impact on my life, professionally and personally. Little did I know that just six months after my most recent SA Camp experience, I would run into a fellow camper during an interview! I knew Brianne worked at Endicott College, but I didn’t realize I would see her. Sure enough, as I walked in the Student Center, Brianne’s office was right in front of me. I knocked and she gave me a huge hug while welcoming me to her campus. I could not have asked for a better way to start a daylong interview, or to feel more welcome at a new institution. The day of my interview started on such a positive note by seeing Brianne and sure enough I’ve been fortunate to work at Endicott ever since! The true beauty of SA Camp is that campers come from all over and you never know what new connections you will make.

Please join me this summer in Keene, NH for SA Camp 3.0. If you have questions, feel free to reach out via email!

For more information and to register online please visit the event page at http://newengland.myacpa.org/event/sacamp2017/.

Jillian Toce, M.Ed.
SA Camp Planning Committee
Area Director, Endicott College
jtoce@endicott.edu

Graduate Student Spotlight: Jazmin Ramirez

Where are you working right now?
I am currently a Graduate Resident Director at Salem State University in the Office of Residence Life and Community Standards. I oversee a student staff of approximately 30 students and 300+ residents. Alongside being the advisor for Community Council and co-chair for the Mental Health Awareness Week Committee.

What do you love about working there?
I love the students at Salem State University and the amount of diversity you see on campus. The students really shape your experience here in a positive way. I love when students come to my office just to talk about his or her day. Most importantly, I love seeing the students grow as a person in the community and as a student. I also love the people that I work with in the Office of Residence Life. I felt welcomed since the very first day and the amount of support I am given is incredible. It makes working here really enjoyable.

When you aren’t working, how do you spend your free time?
During my free time, I enjoy reading books, watching movies, listening to spoken word and music as well as spending time with my family and close friends.

What is your favorite grad school class and why?
I would have to say my favorite grad school class as of right now would have to be Student Development Theories. It was really fun learning about the different student development theories and finding ways to apply those theories to my daily work. My assistantship gives me the opportunity to interact with students often, and during those interactions I could not help but think about the theories that best represented the students during that specific stage in his or her life. This class also gave me the opportunity to think about my own personal development and get more in tuned with my own identity. It is important to know your own identity and development process to be able to help and understand the students you work with.

Who inspired you to get involved in Higher Education?
During my undergraduate experience at Providence College I was always involved. I was a resident assistant for two years. I was treasurer and then president of the Organization of Latin American Students. I was a mentor for multicultural first year students and I helped co-found the Providence Immigrant Rights Coalition to help support and bring awareness of undocumented students on campus. My involvement on campus definitely sparked my interest in higher education, but my mentor Federica Bucca solidified that interest for me. Federica supported me through the entire grad school and assistantship search process. She always motivated me and gave me words of encouragement.

What is the most valuable lesson you have learned in your career (so far)?
Most valuable lesson I have learned is that every student is different. No two students are the same. Every student is at a different development stage in life and I need to take that into account when I am interacting with students on a daily basis. It is important for students to know that as student affairs professionals we truly care for their well-being and we care for their academic success. Students have no interest in what we have to say until they know that we truly care for them as individuals.

What is on your Higher Ed bucket list?
My ultimate goal is to become a Dean of Students. However, before I get there I would like to gain experience working with sexual violence prevention services, title ix investigation, and assisting undocumented students in having a more smooth college experience.

What advice would you offer to undergraduate seniors who are staring to search for grad programs?
I would say to consider all your options. Do not be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone and go somewhere away from home. Most importantly, look into graduate assistantships. There are positions available that offer tuition remission. It really helps with the cost of grad school. Visit your Career Services office on campus. During my search process, career services helped with my resume, my personal statement, cover letters, and they conducted mock interviews, which really helped in preparing me for my interviews.