On the Job with Alex Maxwell

What are your plans after graduation?

As a first-year graduate student in our college student personnel program, I am going into it with an open mind. I have thought about several potential fields including student activities, student center operations, fraternity and sorority life, or even student conduct. I do think that I would like to go back to the Southeast and work at a large research institution, though. A piece of advice I would give to undergraduate students, is go into your graduate program with an open mind! You will always learn something that you never expected to. For example, if I decide to go into student activities, the skills that I learned working on the operations side of a student center can be extremely valuable when advising a student organization on planning a large event.


Alex MaxwellWhat is the biggest lesson you’ve learned working in the profession?

The biggest lesson I have learned so far is that there is no such thing as a typical day! It is one of the things that makes my assistantship so exciting. One day I could be working with a group of doctors from the community putting on a conference in our student center and the next I could be helping make sure Panhellenic recruitment is running smoothly. I have also learned that no matter how much you plan, there is always a possibility that something could go wrong. The key is knowing the resources that you have available in your building and area of work, both the physical resources, but more importantly, the people!


Describe a memorable day on the job.

My most memorable day so far was one of my first shifts that I worked. I was still in training and was shadowing one of my fellow building managers. Southern Illinois is located in Carbondale, and this year it was one of the best places to view the total solar eclipse because the point of longest duration was only a few miles away from our town. Because of this, there were many different events that took place on our campus. One of these events was an Eclipse Comic Con, held at our student center. It was memorable because it was one of my first shifts, and it was a massive event with an estimated 3,500 people in attendance! Talk about a great way to learn how to do your job! It not only gave me an excellent opportunity to find out how to work large-scale events, but it also gave the rest of our amazing staff and me the ability to showcase our excellent customer service to students, both new and returning, their families, and the countless visitors that came to SIU’s campus.


What advice would you have for undergraduates considering a degree in student affairs/higher education leadership?

Don’t be afraid to get out of your comfort zone! As an undergraduate, go out and get involved in different types of student organizations. When I was an undergraduate at Mississippi State University, I was involved in my fraternity, Pi Kappa Phi, as well as my institution’s student government, and started a brand-new organization that focused on encouraging students to get involved on campus. These different experiences gave me a wide range of transferable skills that I can pull from in my current assistantship. My second piece of advice is to find a mentor. One of my mentors that comes to mind from my undergraduate institution is Jackie Mullen, the director for the Center for Student Activities. She always encourages me to push myself and continue to develop as a person and student affairs professional.
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