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New leadership program teaches students about student affairs field

RELEASED: Feb. 12, 2010

EAU CLAIRE — A team of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire students are getting a taste for what it might be like to someday work in the student affairs field at a higher education institution.

Twenty undergraduates from a variety of majors were paired with 20 professional mentors this year as part of a pilot Future Student Affairs Professional Program.

"We're offering interested students career experiences in the student affairs profession," said Staci Heidtke, the arts and sciences internship manager for Career Services. "It's a great program because it offers real life experience and allows students to learn about career opportunities they may not have otherwise known about. Students are learning about different opportunities within the student affairs fields, as well as getting an idea about grad schools or other paths that might help them prepare to enter the higher education job force."

The students were matched with professionals in offices throughout student affairs and academic affairs, Heidtke said. Students are working with people in areas such as housing, Career Services, advising and multicultural affairs, she said.

The students work on projects with their mentors, and meet with them regularly to discuss their career paths and their responsibilities, Heidtke said, noting that the students also spend time job shadowing the professionals. The student-led projects vary from establishing a Web site to organizing a conference to helping to lead the Civil Rights Pilgrimage, she said.

"I joined the FSAPP because I am very interested in working in student affairs," said Kayla Piper, a sophomore English major from Eau Claire. "I previously was a student worker in the Student Support Services office and am now a student worker in the Academic Skills Center. I love working with students to help them obtain their educational goals. I also love the atmosphere at a university job. I know I am surrounded by people who care about education and learning as much as I do."

The students must devote several hours a month to their program, Heidtke said, noting that current participants will continue in the program until the end of the spring semester.

The most rewarding part of the program is working with a student one-on-one and listening to them talk about their hopes for the future, said Angie Bong, coordinator of student leadership and organizations for the Activities and Programs Office.

"It's a privilege to be a part of their career exploration process and to watch them get excited as they learn about different career prospects," Bong said. "The program is a great way to assist our students wishing to pursue a career in higher education. Since there is not an undergraduate major that directly correlates with higher education graduate programs, I wanted to help students explore how their experiences as undergraduates can help prepare them for a future career. When I was an undergraduate, I didn't realize until late in my college career that student affairs was a career option, so this is a way to help create that awareness early on."

Jacqueline Bonneville, coordinator of new student orientation, advising and new student initiatives, has been meeting with her mentee every two or three weeks since they were paired early in the fall 2009 semester.

"She is graduating in May and wishes to enter the field," Bonneville said of her mentee. "This can be difficult if you don't have a master's degree so we have spent a lot of time looking at job descriptions, reviewing resumes and discussing experiences that could enhance her chances of being offered such a position."

Bonneville volunteered to be a mentor because she believes those already working in student affairs should do more to teach students about the student affairs profession and encourage students to consider entering the field.

"It was amazing to see this many students come forward with interest in student affairs," Bonneville said. "I believe the program will continue to grow and grow. We have some amazing student leaders on this campus and it would be great to help them learn more about our field."

The program is accepting new students. Students who are interested can contact Staci Heidtke at 715-836-5358 or



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