“Call CN!”: The Life and Times of an HSRC GTA

By Carmen Wilson

You ever had a tough interaction with your supervisor that makes you think, “I wish my boss would _________”? Rough day at work where you run to the nearest Netflix account with a beverage of choice in hand? I’ve had both those scenarios and then some working at the HSRC. But I can count those moments on one needs-a-manicure-badly-from-stress-induced nail biting hand (post-graduate school job searches are exhausting!). Now that the crappy feelings are out of the way, here’s a bit of a run-down about my experience working at the HSRC.

Why did you decide to work at the HSRC:

I felt good vibes following my interview – and was very curious about the innovative and unique work happening at the HSRC. I was excited by the opportunity to work with students from low-income backgrounds, as I myself have that experience. I thought that working at the HSRC would help me get hands-on applicable theory-to-practice work.

How is office culture?

Staff (pro-staff, grad staff and student staff) share their successes and celebrations, mull and dialogue over how we can enhance the office, express their concerns and emotions in a safe space and brave space environment. Need a mental health day off? Boom, go refill your empty cup. Taking time off for professional development opportunities? Have a blast and share your experience if you feel comfortable. Staff do not have to fear being who they are at the HSRC; every part of your wellness and growth are noticed and nurtured by the whole team.

What was your supervisory experience like at the HSRC?

Supervision under Nicole Hindes, the current and only professional staff member, is a whirlwind experience. You may be thinking, “Is that a good thing? Whirlwinds sounds scary!” Trust me, it is. Nicole holds social and racial justice as top priorities. This plays out in staff members representing diverse identities, in particular hiring from the populations we serve. Authenticity to whatever your comfort level may be is encouraged. As a Black, queer, non-binary first generation person from a low-income background, I was able to show up to work and not fear my identities jeopardizing my job.

What is the work like at the HSRC?

Parlaying into the next topic: space is created to strengthen staff members’ professional voice and know-how. Staff has incredible autonomy over projects. From creation to evaluation, staff’s sense of pride grows exponentially with each successful endeavor they embark on. This showed up in me being the co-chair of the annual Hunger and Houselessness Action Week. Along with my fellow co-chair, we had full autonomy of the events. I also see these traits show up with student workers and student leaders who are pitching in.

What about balancing academics and working at the HSRS?

It is difficult to do- but manageable. I found that communication is key, both with student staff and the rest of the leadership team. I have been able to utilize student development theory (Perry, for example) when supporting student staff in their roles, by identifying their development level and integrating empathy and encouragement into my approach to helping them with their work. In another class, when we had to look at how budgets work, Nicole shared the HSRC budget with transparency and helped me understand challenging concepts because I was able to look at a real budget. Nicole makes space for you to attend classes and get academic development – like going to different events, having time for internship opportunities, etc. I was able to complete two internships, work at the HSRC, other time spent in my class and managing my job search. While doing all this at once was challenging, I was successful – I anticipate starting my next full time job in April.

What is your takeaway?

At the beginning of my GTA experience, it was a challenging transition as I adjusted to some hurdles and setbacks – stemming from both my own transition into the role but also lots of growing pains stemming from the HSRC transitioning in multiple programmatic ways (like our new building, for example).  But as we enhanced our office operations, hired stellar staff, and figured out how to maximize our beautiful new space, I was able to not only find my groove, but find my growth as a GTA. I will carry the skills and experience I gathered from my two years as a GTA for the rest of my professional career. If you are reading this as an future grad student, consider yourself lucky. You have just entered one of the most innovative, transformational offices in student affairs. A great resume builder and interview piece FYI.

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