Tonight at my staff meeting (I supervise a group of amazing Res Life student leaders, called Community Facilitators, or CFs at my institution) we invited two therapists of our counseling center to facilitate a discussion on transition. These two counselors are our assigned “Counseling Liaisons” and have come to several staff meetings throughout the year to make connections, talk about what our center can offer students, and basically put faces and personalities to the sometimes intimidating idea of going to counseling. This has not only helped my team better advocate for the counseling center and encourage students to engage in their mental health, but has also opened up space on my team to discuss mental health issues.
We are on the quarter system and about a month away from the end of our year. Two of my CFs are returning next year, three are studying abroad, three are becoming Assistant Resident Directors, and two are living a Res Life-free existence as seniors. In some way or another, they are all in the middle of a transition, as are their residents. When speaking with our counseling center liaisons, I wanted this transition to be addressed, to be processed, to be given the space that it deserves. In previous years, I often found my student leaders are so consumed with wrapping up classes and closing details that they never considered saying goodbye to the team they worked hard to build all year until they started driving away from campus.
What happened tonight was very powerful. My group of student leaders spoke candidly about their fears, worries, concerns, joy, and excitement that they are all dealing with during this time of transition. Those who are continuing with Res Life talked about being torn in two directions between bonding with their incoming team and honoring the current relationships on the team. Those who are getting a promotion to a leadership position spoke about the dual roles of both peer and now leader. Those who are studying abroad or not continuing with Res Life spoke about always looking towards the future and not being able to be present in the moment. Every single person addressed the idea of telling those who made an impact on them about this influence before the year ended.
Our counseling liaisons did an incredible job at facilitating this discussion, honoring the thoughts, feelings, and emotions that these various transitions brought up for my team, and talked about the importance of creating this space for the residents on their floors. While the transitions may be different than that of a student leader, all the residents in our community are transitioning in one way or another. Throughout the conversation, all I could think was, “Why don’t we do this more often? Why don’t we honor the incredible relationships that form while working on a team by creating space to do so? Why do we get so wrapped up in the frenetic nature of the end-of-the-year duties and fail to speak to how we have been influenced by others?”
These conversations matter just as much as damage billing. Creating space for this type of processing is just as meaningful (if not more so) as the end of the year banquet. Being heard and hearing others should compete with the best paperwork any day of the week. Honoring the relationships that were created, nurtured, tested, and reinforced deserve the same care and attention as your end of the year report. Let’s take a stand and advocate for our student’s emotional health in the same way we do for our to-do lists.
Relationships matter, transitions matter, students matter, and its about time we start acting that way.
When in doubt, go with a quote from “The Wonder Years”