In May 2011, I began my professional career in U.S. college student affairs after graduating from the M.S. in Higher Education Administration (HEA) Program at North Carolina State University (NCSU). While those two years in the NCSU HEA program were some of the best of my life, I was also exposed to the realities of what a career in student affairs would really entail. By the time I graduated, my graduate assistantship and internship experiences, in both Fraternity & Sorority Life and Residential Education at three different universities, required me to play a significant support role for students experiencing a number of traumatic life events including: the death of a loved one, suicidal ideation, domestic violence, sexual violence, physical assault, life threatening injuries, extreme economic hardships, and debilitating mental health issues. In the years that followed, this list grew as I worked in other residential education positions, and later took on a doctoral graduate assistantship in multicultural affairs.
Assisting these students were some of the most impactful moments in my life, and I was grateful for the opportunity to be of service. However, despite some level of training, I often felt underprepared, unable to set and maintain boundaries for my own health, and unable to explore the impact of this support-work on my personal well-being, outside of a select group of my co-workers and family. Eventually, I sought professional counseling and came to truly understand the toll this work was taking on my personal well-being. Like many college student affairs professionals, I didn't think twice about putting my health and well-being second in order to provide consistent and meaningful support to the students I served.
By 2014, I entered the next chapter of my professional life, enrolling in a Higher Education doctoral program at Old Dominion University. Through a combination of serendipity, the encouragement of my graduate faculty, and a passion for supporting those who support others, I landed on my dissertation topic: Secondary traumatic stress in student affairs. Through two years of quantitative and qualitative data collection, I found that my story was not an isolated occurrence, and higher education professionals were eager to share their own stories of how trauma-support work has affected them.
Based on my professional and scholarly experiences, I decided to start this blog, Helping the Helpers, with the goal to raise awareness and increase dialogue about the impact of support-work on education professionals, from K-12 through graduate eduction. My aim is to start by posting blogs on monthly basis that address issues regarding trauma-support work through current research, best practices, my personal experiences, and stories shared with me (with permission, of course!). Upcoming blog posts will explore overarching trends that have emerged from my research and how these trends can inform the work we do in education. Please feel free to reach out if you have a topic you would like me to explore, or if you have an idea you would like to share! You can reach me here.
About this Blog
Helping the Helpers is a blog that centers professional helpers working in education-based organizations. Drawing from current research, my own experiences, and the narratives of past and present helpers, I address a variety of topics regarding the personal impact of professional helping including best practices, emergent innovations, and personal reflections.