Chosen for a Career in Higher Ed – with Rafael Cordwell


Rafael Cordwell believes that you don’t choose your profession, your profession chooses you. And in the beginning, Raf resisted a career in student affairs—despite encouragement from more than one of his supervisors at Southern Connecticut State. But higher education had other plans for Raf, and today, he aspires to impact campus culture and policy for the better as a senior leader in the field.

Raf currently serves as COCM’s Director of University Affiliated Housing at Towson University in Towson, Maryland, and the Director of Leadership and Business Development at Driven2Inspire, a professional training and keynote speaking firm. Raf was selected to be a part of the inaugural cohort of the Ujima Institute, a prestigious program offered by NASPA, the Association for Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education. Raf earned his BA in English and Master’s in Women’s Studies at Southern Connecticut State University and is currently pursuing his PhD in Higher Education Administration at Morgan State.

On this episode of Student Housing Matters, Raf joins me to share his experience at the Ujima Institute, explaining its purpose in supporting higher education and student affairs professionals of color who aspire to senior-level and faculty positions. Raf describes the incredible level of energy among attendees as they shared their lived experiences and walks us through the values exercise he learned at Ujima that had the most profound impact on him as a leader. Listen in for Raf’s advice to young professionals considering a career in student housing and learn how residence life chose Raf to be a leader in college administration.

Topics Covered

  • How Raf was encouraged by his early supervisors to pursue a career in higher education
  • How the opportunity to impact campus culture and policy inspired Raf’s decision
  • The role Raf’s academic background in gender studies plays in his work in residence life
  • Why working with different types of people is both the most challenging and rewarding part of Raf’s job
  • How Raf helps students and their parents through the transition to college life
  • The Ujima Institute’s aim in supporting higher ed professionals of color who aspire to senior-level positions
  • The high level of energy among Ujima Institute attendees in sharing their lived experiences
  • Why Raf would encourage others to apply for the Ujima Institute
  • The values exercise Raf learned at the program that had a profound impact on him as a leader
  • Raf’s advice for young professionals considering a career in student affairs

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