In the EPPL Higher Education Administration program, students are required to complete a 140 hour internship experience designed to allow students to explore new areas of higher education and gain experience outside of their graduate assistantships. Jenny Fam completed her internship this summer at UC Berkeley and her experience exemplifies the purpose of the internship experience.
I’ve never lived on-campus during my college years, so when I accepted my internship to be the Assistant Resident Director at the University of California, Berkeley (Cal), I wasn’t sure what to expect but I was excited for the new experience. I’ve always had a very specific path that I wanted to follow, but this internship opened up other doors that I hadn’t explored.
The community at Cal will always have a special place in my heart. As someone who had no prior residence life experience, I had to adapt and learn quickly. Everyone was supportive and understanding, especially my student staff. They were patient when I could not answer their questions immediately. I supervised a large group of Resident Assistants (RAs), it was challenging but helpful in building up my competencies in supervision. My student staff members were of diverse backgrounds and each of them brought their own unique stories and experiences to the table. While I was their supervisor, I learned new things from them ever day through our daily conversations.
As a top public university, the stress culture at Cal was similar to that of William & Mary. However, the students showed me their resilience through their determination to achieve their goals. The RAs were aware of the need to maintain a work-life balance and the need to communicate its importance to the community. To do this, they often hosted programs with the intention of promoting student wellbeing. Burnout was common at the staff level as well, which the administrators often took the extra mile to ensure the wellbeing of staff through frequent check-ins and strategic on-call rotation shift schedules. This created a top-down effect, where the student staff saw how the administrators looked out for them and they wanted to do the same for their residents.
These opportunities allowed me to envision my fit in different types of institutions moving forward.Jenny Fam, M.Ed. ’20
The Cal team also provided us the opportunity to visit several institutions that serve a very different population of students including professional students in a medical school and a private Jesuit college. The Director of Student Affairs for each institution was able to meet us to provide us insights into the institution, such as how the structure and framework is different from a 4-year public institution, what different approaches were adapted to meet students need, and so on. These opportunities allowed me to envision my fit in different types of institutions moving forward.
I was also able to meet with several inspiring leaders at Cal, one of them was Cathy Kodoma, the Director of Wellness Center. We had a great coffee talk about the wellbeing of students, what barriers were present and what initiatives the institution had put in place to spread the awareness of wellness. She also inspired me to focus my master’s project in the wellbeing of students, specifically international students, that very few researchers focus on. With the Healthy Campus 2020 campaign and the Eight Dimension of Wellness at William & Mary, the Wellness Center has launched many programs and it will continue to expand within the near future. I wanted to dive deeper into the effect and efficacy of these steps taken to raise the awareness of wellbeing.
About the Author: My name is Jenny Fam and I’m from Malaysia! I’m a second year Master’s student in Higher Education Administration and the graduate assistant for the Office of Sustainability.