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From Conceptualizing to Defining my Future Role in Higher Education

Daniel L. Bickham

Louisiana State University


From Conceptualizing to Defining my Future Role in Higher Education

The program in higher education administration at Louisiana State University (LSU) has

served in my transition from visualizing a possible impact in the field to understanding the

practices and processes for how such a feat might be accomplished. Upon entry in the education

leadership research and counseling program with LSU I knew that I wanted to help others who

would be facing challenges similar to those I myself had to overcome. Now that I am preparing to

transition into the next step in my pursuits, I am equipped with an amalgamation of knowledge

and applicable experience for doing so in a more meaningful, purpose-driven way.

In my very first semester, as a novice graduate student, faced with the daily burden of

imposter syndrome, I was quickly indoctrinated into a familiarity with the elevated expectations

of graduate-level writing and comprehension. I have borne witness to my own personal

development of this all-important and continuously-improving skillset throughout a relatively

short time in the lifespan of my postsecondary studies. Skills that I had previously never imagined

needing, let alone developing, have become a powerful tool in the arsenal of my academic

capacities for research and analysis.

One of the most influential courses from early on in the program came from my time in the

course on student development theory. This course explored the undeniable connection between

the institution a student has chosen to attend and the variant outcomes that could result as a

condition of this choice, as compared to alternative outcomes from other institutions having either

more or less institutional fit (Patton, Renn, Guido-DiBrito, & Quaye, 2016). Along with this

outcome-based exploration, the course inspired an introspective examination into the potential

underlying causes for such immense variation. The course itself highlighted the integration of

appropriate psychological approaches to students’ comparative development stages. One such


examination was through the lens of incorporating Erickson’s Identity Development Theory,

wherein implications from the various roles held by faculty and administration were taken into

account, given their respective potential impact on a student’s overall success.

Another defining moment during my time in the master’s program took place at George

Mason University with its Director for Student Affairs for the College of Science, Assad Khan.

The wealth of real-world knowledge gained in that one day will surely resonate with me for the

duration of my professional career. Director Khan was able to exhibit the world of Student Affairs

in Higher Education as is not often seen or so candidly examined in the most prolific texts related

to the field and its practices. From recounting his own struggles as a professional who had been

lacking sufficient academic credentials, he was able to share invaluable insight into some of the

harsher realities that an inexperienced or under-credentialed professional might face during the

course of his or her career in postsecondary administration (Khan, 2018).

One of the most impactful components of my learning throughout this program was

through my unique ability to introspectively apply what was being learned to the living and

breathing students in my own classroom. While these students are still in the secondary stage of

education, they will soon be at the proverbial and literal doorsteps of colleges and universities

throughout the United States. Working with them has allowed me the very real awareness as to the

type of learner with whom I will be working upon my return to Higher Education. Furthermore,

through working with this dynamic and elusive cohort, what was once a specific and personally-

driven research interest in First Generation College Students has grown into the overarching

expanse of students belonging to Generation Z. The result of such a shift will facilitate impact-

intentional research in aligning best practices for Higher Education Administration with those that

will best grow student success and outcomes for this burgeoning generation of students.

Some of the most useful information acquired from my time with the graduate school was

supplementary to its curricular components, as with the life-altering guidance offered in a phone

conversation with one of my professors, Dr. Margaret King. Given my geographical distance from

the school itself, along with my detachment from practice at a postsecondary institution, Dr. King

suggested that I consider joining professional organizations such as NASPA, SACSA, and ACPA.

Following her advice, I was able to attend my first NASPA conference and TPE (The Placement

Exchange) event in Philadelphia, in March of 2018. There, I was able to connect with professionals

from across the country, establishing a network with whom I still maintain regular contact.

As a result of said networking, I was able to join social media groups for professionals and

graduate students already operating and pursuing their own goals in Higher Education. One such

practitioner is LSU’s own Dr. Sonja Ardoin. Not only has her literature served to further enhance

my knowledge of the field, but being able to relate to her as a fellow First Generation College

Student was truly encouraging and strengthened my perseverance for the remainder of my time as

a student of LSU. Her transparent real-world advice has even helped guide my decision to continue

my studies in Higher Education Administration. Dr. Ardoin makes it evident that she too has been

in situations similar to my own and provides true insight into her own journey to becoming the

successful practitioner she is today. Her no-holds-barred approach to careers in Higher Education

has surely helped define the trajectory of my future professional and educational aspirations. Her

advice on finding the program of best fit has reaffirmed my decision to attend LSU; “The goal is

to find one that is excellent for you. The key part there is—for you!” (Ardoin, 2014, ch. 4, para.

20). While LSU may not be the best fit for all students pursuing all degrees, I am proud to be able

to consider myself a Tiger, and I eagerly anticipate going out and changing the world with what I

have learned as one. Geaux Tigers!



Ardoin, S. (2014). The Strategic Guide to Shaping Your Student Affairs Career. Sterling, VA:

Stylus Publishing. Kindle Edition.

Khan, A. (2018, August 10). Practicum: George Mason University. Personal Interview.

Patton, L. D., Renn, K. A., Guido-DiBrito, F., & Quaye, S. J. (2016). Student Development in

College: Theory, Research, and Practice. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, A Wiley Brand.