Breaking Out of the Silo in Student Affairs | Rosenbery, Davies & Hood


Sam, a recent grad and new professional, finds themselves already getting frustrated in their new role as a Conduct Coordinator. In grad school, Sam found opportunities and connections in abundance. Since transitioning to a full-time role, Sam has felt siloed within their functional area. As a Conduct Coordinator, Sam now primarily engages with conduct-related matters and finds limited exposure to other areas within the university. This shift has left Sam feeling disconnected from the broader campus community and unsure about how to navigate seeking connections / collaborative relationships.


Isolation, Conduct, New Professional Experiences, Transition

Primary Character:

Sam (They/Them/Theirs) is a 24 year old Black non-binary new professional at New Yollie University (located in New York City) working as a Conduct Coordinator. Sam recently graduated from University of Highstart’s M.Ed program in a cohort of 37 graduate students. Sam is from Phoenix, AZ, and does not have any family or friends that live in New York.

The Case:

Having recently completed their M.Ed. program at University of Vermont, Sam’s transition from a large cohort of 37 HESA graduate students to a full-time role as a Conduct Coordinator at New York University was marked with anticipation and excitement. The previous summer, Sam had completed an internship at UWindy (located in Chicago, IL) and loved the thrill of living in a city. Sam was sure that New York was going to be no different, and that making connections would be easier in a more diverse and populated environment.

The first few weeks at NYU were full of introductions, training sessions, and paperwork. Sam was the only Conduct Coordinator that was hired and was on-boarded solo. Most of Sam’s coworkers have been at NYU for two or more years and are in their upper twenties to lower thirties. At times Sam felt lonely, but the excitement was in the unknown, and the busy days coupled with fresh faces kept Sam entertained during the onboarding process.

As the energy and engagement of training and introductions to other staff started to fade, Sam noticed a shift. Sam’s role as a Conduct Coordinator, while vital, was singularly focused on conduct-related matters. Sam’s days were spent mostly in the office and around the same people every day. At first Sam was inspired to be working with other professionals with more experience, but as time went on and everyone returned to their normal office routine, they became frustrated with the rest of the team’s lack of openness to new ideas.

During the day, Sam began to think about graduate school a lot. Sam started to miss the constant exchanging of ideas, the camaraderie of late-night paper writing sessions and shared passions, and the opportunity to hear about what other departments on campus experience or were up to. Each day Sam felt more disconnected as they continued to think about what they were missing in their experience.

In hopes of combating their feelings of isolation and in an effort to check out what other offices were up to; Sam went to NYU’s annual involvement fair. Sam chatted with students and professionals while visiting many tables of offices of colleagues they met during their onboarding and student organizations on campus. Sam started to connect which offices had      strong relationships and collaborated often. Sam started to reflect on their department and longed for the kind of collaborative relationships that other departments had with one another.

When Sam returned to their office, Sam started to think about what they could do to meet other professionals outside the Office of Conduct, and how the office of conduct could collaborate with other offices on campus. Sam began to wonder how they could encourage their department to do more outreach. Many of the other professionals in the office had been there for a while and Sam heard many of their colleagues combat new ideas with “That’s not how we do things,” and “Well, this is how it’s always been.”

Discussion Questions:

  1. How did Sam’s role as a Conduct Coordinator limit their interactions and collaboration with other departments? What impact did this have on their sense of connection with their colleagues and the broader campus community?
  2. Considering the resistance to change within the office of conduct, what strategies or approaches could Sam consider encouraging more outreach and collaboration? How might they navigate the response, “this is how it’s always been”?
  3. How can organizations effectively balance maintaining traditional practices while also embracing innovation and change? What benefits and challenges might arise from finding this balance?
  4. How might Sam enhance their feelings of connectedness, and get involved on campus outside of their office?
  5. How can Sam’s supervisor assist them in finding opportunities to interact with other professionals outside of the office?

Author Bios

Alex Rosenbery (She/Her/Hers and They/Them/Theirs)- Alex is currently serving as a Coordinator for Residence Life at the University of North Carolina Greensboro where they oversees two apartment style continuing student buildings and serves on the Student Staff and Professional Staff Recruitment committee(s). Alex has obtained her bachelor’s degree from the University Illinois at Chicago and their master’s degree from Clemson University.

Amber Davies (she/her/hers) – Amber is currently serving as a Residence Director at Johns Hopkins University where she oversees a second year community and serves in capacities including student recruitment and first year experience. Amber has obtained her bachelor’s degree from Stockton University and a master’s degree from Clemson University.

Kayla Hood (she/her/hers) – Kayla is a recent graduate with a Master of Education in Counselor Education, Student Affairs with interests in social justice theories/practices, intersectionality, and holistic wellbeing. Kayla currently works at Davidson College as the Assistant Director for the Center for Student Diversity and Inclusion.

Career Confusion | Ebri


This is a case about Linda, a recently divorced, indigenous first-generation college student. She has been guiding herself through her academic program because she did not trust her previous academic and career advisor Dr. Anne Whatley. Linda now has an appointment with Nancy Whitehead, her new advisor. Linda is unhappy with her current major though she is doing well in her classes. She needs to decide if she will stay with the major, but this is complicated because she has changed her major several times. She has interests that are not congruent with her current major.

Keywords: Indigenous, first-generation, lack of trust

Primary Characters

Linda (she, her, hers) is a recently divorced low-income indigenous woman. She has no trust in the academic and career advising office. She believes that her former advisor discriminated against her due to her heritage. She only worked for a few years and stayed home with her young children and has now returned to school to complete her education.

Nancy Whitehead (she, her, hers) is a white woman with a middle-class background. She is a seasoned academic advisor with a master’s degree in social work. Nancy was just hired to replace Linda’s previous advisor, but she has only worked in a small elite predominantly white institution.

Context and Case

Linda is a 26-year-old indigenous female who graduated high school at seventeen with a 3.82 GPA. She is a first-generation college student in a small liberal art public university in the southeastern United States who has returned to complete a degree she left eight years ago. She married her high school sweetheart, Tom who joined the United States Army immediately after their high school graduation. She dropped her classes while majoring in drama in a four-year institution because Tom told her that it was a waste of time. Instead, she decided to pursue cosmetology in a community college. Upon graduation, she worked in a dermatologist’s office doing aesthetics. These skills helped her earn a small income as she travelled around the world due to Tom’s military postings.

They have two daughters, and Linda is recently divorced.  She is raising her daughters alone because Tom has no interest in the girls. She has some family support from her parents who own an animal feed store, younger brother and sister, and Tom’s parents. Her parents’ flexible schedule allows them to assist with school pickups when she needs them to because they are proud of her and want her to stay focused in school. They also chose this major for her because they believe that she will be guaranteed a job upon graduation. cannot wait for her to graduate since she will be the first college graduate in their family and so that she can begin to earn a proper living. They do not support her poetry performances.

Her daughters miss their dad, but Linda’s efforts to get him to be a responsible father have been ignored. This depresses her when she sees how dedicated her sister’s husband is to his little girl. Linda noted that her previous advisor Dr. Whatley was always very impatient and dismissive with her and never gave her the time and acknowledgement that she gave her other advisees who did not look like her. Linda cannot relate with anyone at the center, and her previous experience is why she does not trust the advisors. However, she has decided to go to this appointment because she has been referred to Nancy, a new academic and career counselor, by her friend who told her that she benefited from an interaction with Nancy earlier that semester.

Linda is motivated to finish her degree to be a positive example for her daughters; however, she has changed her major a few times. Linda’s current major is Medical Laboratory Technology (MLT), and she chose it because her parents want her to have job security. She has stellar grades, but she is not looking forward to doing this type of work.

During her appointment, Linda tells her advisor she is a poet and loves to perform. She also tells her that she is self-published using Amazon as her sales outlet and loves modeling and make-up as well as volunteering in the community with causes to support women. She also wants a career that will allow her time with her daughters and provide for them. Many years ago, she loved and dreamed of a career on stage and could still pursue it now that her husband is gone but she has given up on that ambition due to her parental obligations. She does not see herself working behind the scenes because she will be bored since she likes to socialize. However, as a highly motivated individual, she believes in a positive outcome for what she ultimately decides.

At the appointment, even though Nancy has never worked with a diverse student body, her caring nature makes her inquire about how Linda is coping with school, work, and her children. Linda tells her she is always tired and exhausted because she works round the clock, either studying or working, and cannot keep up with the kids. She is sad and breaks down crying saying that she cannot attend all her daughters’ soccer games and school meetings because of her own classes. Linda also shares her concerns about not getting many poetry opportunities because of her gender and race.

Nancy: Looking at your grades, you are doing very well in your classes.

Linda: Thank you.

Nancy: Based on everything that you have told me, is there any reason you would not want to pursue a business minor?

Linda: I am not sure. How will that help me if I finish the MLT program?

Nancy: You will be able to manage your side business should you decide to pursue writing or theatre full time.

Linda: I never thought of that. But I have dreamt of owning my own cosmetic line. What will my schedule look like and how will this fit in with my clinicals?

Nancy: First thing is I recommend that you visit Ms. Jessica at the Financial Aid office to discuss your financial aid situation. Since you have taken a lot of classes, your aid package could be affected.

Next, I want you to write down 10 things that you love, appreciate, and enjoy doing with your time and where you see yourself five years after graduation. I also want you to take a career assessment. This test will help you learn more about your personal interests and careers that match your interests. I will send you a link for the assessment. We will follow-up in two weeks.

Linda: Thank you so much for your help. I will be back in two weeks.

Discussion Questions

  1. What career and student development theories might help in understanding Linda’s career dilemma?
  2. What other interventions (beyond those already suggested by Nancy) might be effective to help Linda with her career exploration and decision making?
  3. How may Nancy help Linda take care of non-academic needs so that she can handle her diverse issues?
  4. How does Nancy’s multiculturalism assist in the relationship with Linda?

Author Bio

MarySheila Ebri (she, her, hers) is currently pursuing a master’s degree in academic advising at Kansas State University. She has worked in Higher Education for over 19 years in various roles. She is currently employed as the Transfer Student Specialist at Methodist University in Fayetteville, North Carolina.