University thus far has been an incredible experience, where I have had the opportunity to meet a diverse group of inspirational people, many of whom have become close friends. Looking back, I feel that I have made a handful of good choices, which ultimately led me to where I am today. But of all the decisions made, running for Vice President (Academic) stands out. It's a decision that took careful thought, and was preceded by a medley of emotions and questions.
'Is sacrificing a year really worth it?' 'Will I be able to maintain a social life?' 'Will I lose any friendships that have been built over the last two years?' Though keeping a social life requires considerable effort, and although the nature of some relationships has changed, I feel strongly about the value of the experience as VPA.
Rather than construe the year of VPA as a sacrifice, I view it as a year of immense learning. If the current pace keeps up, my term as VPA will establish itself as the most influential period of my life. But why?
Numerous examples convey this point.
First, I feel like a large portion of VPA is learning how to find order in chaos. Though this may not be the most flattering depiction of the portfolio, I believe that is accurate. The VPA works on many different issues: developing relationships with faculty associations; understanding the dynamics of university governance; refining people skills; and making sense out of complex academic issues (assessment and grading, teaching evaluations and graduate attributes), constitute only a portion of the VPA portfolio. Prioritizing the issues listed above requires extensive thought, as each of the issues is important. So how does one do this? This is a question that halfway through the summer I still grapple with.
A second way the VPA portfolio is influencing my character is its demand on me to adapt quickly to new situations. As an experienced pitcher in baseball, I think that I entered the term with a head start in this area. Sometimes, the umpire might make a questionable call, or teammates might make some errors. In the span of a few minutes, the bases can be loaded with no outs. A good pitcher adapts to the situation. In my case, I learned how to slow down the pace of the game, show little to no emotion and focus on one pitch at a time. As VPA, I am sometimes asked to work through some unexpected jams. In this situation, one has to make principled decisions under pressure. Moreover, you need to maintain a "game face." There will be peaks and valleys - moments of success and adversity - but both situations need to be treated similarly. As a nineteen-year-old student still developing his own values system, this is can be tough.
So these are two examples of experience I've been the beneficiary of as VPA. One, the idea of finding order in complex scenarios. Two, the need to adapt to situations that push one out of one’s comfort zone. Both can be stressful, but also tremendously rewarding.
If you ever have thoughts about the VPA portfolio – whether it is interest in running (it is not too early), or a few questions that you wish to ask – please send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. I look forward to having an excellent conversation with you.