“Hope is a woman who has lost her fear.”Alice walker
Here’s a long awaited blog post from me, enjoy!
In January 2022, I closed the door on a 5 year career in Higher Education (7 years if including graduate studies). As of April 6th, I will officially be a #HigherEdExpat and beginning a new role in the corporate sector. I will preface this blog by saying this post is meant to shed light and not “bash” the field of Higher Education or my previous institution. I am beyond grateful for the experiences I have had and hope my story can allow others to either relate or offer insight into my world the past few years.
Pathway to Student Affairs
My interest in Student Affairs was sparked during my time as an actively involved collegiate student leader. I quickly began to fill my time serving in a variety of roles within Black Student Council, the National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC), and Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. to name a few. I had all intentions of becoming a middle school teacher; however, the idea of impacting the lives of students in a college setting seemed far too hard to resist.
Two years of graduate studies came and went, from there — I quickly jumped from a mid-size public regional institution — Murray State University — and stepped into one of the largest fraternity & sorority systems in the country at The University of Mississippi. My time at UM spanned nearly 5 years in the Office of Fraternity & Sorority Life and my trajectory is listed below.
- September 2017 – September 2018 | Began as a Coordinator
- October 2018 – September 2019 | Reclassified to Assistant Director
- October 2019 – May 2021 | Promoted to Associate Director
- June 2021 – January 2022 | Promoted to Interim Director
What a journey the past 5 years have been. In an effort to keep my thoughts succinct, I requested a few questions that my Instagram followers wanted me to answer in regards to my departure from the field so let’s jump right in!
When did you know it was time to leave the field?
August is typically the most busy time of year for those in Student Affairs. However, in August 2021, it felt like EVERY > SINGLE > DAY that I was extinguishing a new fire. From the Delta variant impacting classes to increasingly high risk behavior from our FSL community, I simply could not catch my breath. I was having heart palpitations whenever my phone would ring after-hours; wondering if either a student had passed away or if our community would be on CNN for another hazing allegation. The stressors I reference were a normal occurrence throughout my time at UM (outside of COVID-19); nonetheless, sitting in the seat of director made the pressure all the more present.
The message from administration was consistently , “do it for the students”. Y’all but I was TIRED and I knew the longevity of managing this type of organized chaos was not sustainable. Our staff to student ratio at the height of my career was 1:3500. Not to mention long hours and dismal pay. How are we paying entry level professional with master’s degrees under $40,000/year? The math ain’t mathing y’all.
At my core, my intuition along with my therapist were telling my it was time to close this chapter and so I did. I walked away from my job with nothing lined up. When I say the peace I had in my spirit!! I knew it was what was best for me so I chose me and will continue to choose me again and again. I ended up taking a four month reprieve to rest, heal, and look for new career opportunities. I 10/10 recommend if you have the financial means and support to do this at least once in your life.
What did you enjoy most about the field?
Here’s the hard thing y’all. As much as there were challenges, I LOVED OLE MISS – still do actually! I consider myself an honorary alumna at this point. It found me at the absolute right time. I developed some of the most fruitful friendships I could ever imagine. The students I worked with are true movers and shakers who are out in the world doing the dang thing and I get to be apart of their stories. I worked with some of the best practitioners in the field who I can call some of my best friends. Walking away was HARD.
How did you take the leap?
As Nike says, JUST DO IT! For me staying amongst the fire and broomsticks versus trying something new and “failing forward” was easier for me to process. Often times I feel that for many that find their way into this field, they believe this is the only profession they could ever possibly have. The fear of leaving seems impossible. Our identities are wrapped up so tightly into our work. We love the students. We want to make an impact. We want to be change agents. You can escape though if you choose to make the leap.
“The fear of leaving seems impossible. Our identities are wrapped up so tightly into our work. We love the students. We want to make an impact. We want to be change agents.”Brooke ALEXIS
Shout out to my friend Aarsenio Perry who told me about the “Expatriates of Student Affairs” group on Facebook! It is a group of about 20k professionals who are either looking or have left the field. Seeing the many success stories of those who have made the pivot gave me the courage to pursue this new pathway out.
What roles exist for those looking to pivot?
There are so many opportunities that exist! I’ll list a few but it really depends on each individuals interests.
…. educational technology (ed tech), K-12 education, consulting, human resources/talent acquisition, project management, real estate, law enforcement, event planning, marketing, and so many others.
I recommend doing an audit of everything that you perform in your role and think about what you enjoy the most. That’s where I was able to hone in on what types of experiences I may be interested in pursuing.
What’s next for you professionally?
The long awaited question will soon be answered TOMORROW! For now, I will share that I will be working in the talent acquisition, early talent space for a corporate organization. When I say this role offers all the things I love into one, I mean it. I will have the opportunity to supervise 5 full-time staff, mentor, coach, and also connect with college students in the process. It will offer opportunities to travel and a hybrid working environment. This is a stable company with a strong mission and healthy work culture. Plus I am being compensated VERY WELL for my talents and Gus even gets dog insurance through my company haha.
I chose to no longer to be defined by my fears. I felt conditioned to choose the “safe” options. Safe being to stay in a field that did not value the countless hours I poured into those around me. I did not think there were any other options for me to wholeheartedly pursue my interests and passions. Do I regret my time in Student Affairs? Not at all. I had the opportunity to nurture some phenomenal students and connect with even better professionals. However, your soul knows when it is time to close a chapter and my time happened to be earlier this year.
So here’s to no longer being defined by fear. Will my new opportunity fulfill all my needs — I don’t know quite yet but I am hopeful for the future nonetheless!
Let me know if there is anything you all want to see more of in the comments below. Keep up with me on Instagram or subscribe to be notified of new posts!
Janice HUDSON says
Beautiful journey Soror! I see a book or 2 or more in your future. Your writing is phenomenal!💗💚
Carolyn Avery Swift says
My dear cousin Brooke Alexis you are a phenomenal woman. Your words are so inspirational and motivational. I pray your journey in life be blessed among measure.
Celeste Emerson says
Love your journey Soror! You are an amazing woman who knows what life holds for you. Go for the Gold💕!
Judy Calhoun says
Brooke Alexis, You are a delightful soul inside and out. We are inspired and enlightened by your journey. You have always chosen good for others, and this time you chose You in the process as well! Bravo and Blessings Brooke.
Love & Light,
This was inspiring! I’m a member of the ExPat Facebook group and I love it. I too am taking a work hiatus and it’s honestly been the best decision.