Finding the right opening hook for a paper, especially blogs with their often vague prompts, was one of the hardest parts of my time in graduate school in Vermont. One may assume that unpacking my multiple identities of power and privilege, adjusting to sub- zero wind chills and “lake effect” snow, or functioning from the perspective of being one of two, rather than one of many, were harder to overcome. OK. Upon further reflection, they were. But I still never enjoyed searching for just the right literary launching pad to begin. Then why, you might ask, did I willingly accept the invitation to write this reflection? I am here because someone paved the path for me, and I strive to be the path others can follow. Quite a lofty reason for a blog, I know. But the NASPA Undergraduate Fellows Program, more personally known as NUFP, hits the core at why I do what I do.
NUFP is a semi-structured mentoring program for undergraduate students from traditionally underrepresented and historically disenfranchised populations looking to explore the field of student affairs as a future career. Through on-campus mentorship (that’s where you come in), conference programming, internship opportunities (another opportunity for you), and a residential leadership retreat for a select 32 of them, NUFP changes the landscape of higher education by helping more students of color, students with disabilities, students whom identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer, first-generation students, religious minority students, and the like, succeed. And although I am not a NUFP alum myself, I thank those mentors during my college experience for helping me get to where I am today. These student affairs professionals embodied the quote below.
Victor Butterfield was the 11th president of my alma mater, and although I do not remember the exact quote or when it was stated, he shared a concept similar to the following—If Wesleyan was the best time of your life, we’ve failed you. This sentiment resonates strongly for our field. As student affairs professionals, we not only facilitate welcoming and empowering environments for our students while they are on campus, but also create opportunities for a better future. We encourage these individuals to move past the theoretical lives of college education to apply and practice what they learn in the world.
There is hope in our future, and I am reminded of that possibility with every interaction with NUFP. One of my favorite times at the NASPA Annual Conference is attending the NUFP Reception. To see past alumni, current students, and potential applicants all interacting in one space inspires me. But these fleeting interactions show how NUFP respects the past and works to reinvent the future in the moment.
When we are not at conferences, when we do not have these structured get-togethers, how are we building on the foundation that our past has given us? And how are we ensuring that this foundation stays just as strong in the future? We stand on the shoulders of those that have come before us. We need to ensure that our shoulders are well built to be stood upon. The partnership between NUFP and Capstone is one way that we are paving the future. Why not get more involved and bring the NUFP experience to your campus?
Nathan Victoria is the Director of Member Engagement and Student Initiatives for NASPA-Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education, the leading voice for student affairs administration, policy, and practice. Although the prospects of being a dancing psychologist were tempting (Nathan received his bachelor of arts in dance and psychology at Wesleyan University in Middletown, CT), he enrolled immediately into UVM’s HESA program, where he was a 2007 graduate. Nathan finds it fitting that his journey has brought him to work for NASPA, as a 2004 Region I undergraduate pre-conference showed him the possibilities of a career in student affairs and higher education.