Today’s Defectors contributor post comes from Dustin Ramsdell, Student Support Advisor at 2U . Not sure what we’re doing here yet? All is revealed here.

“Not all those who wander are lost.” – J. R. R. Tolkien

My story boils down to knowing what I wanted, but not where to find it.

I was working in Maine as a Resident Director, wrapping up my second year while my partner was about to graduate from her own higher ed master’s program. We were both ready to move closer to the Mid-Atlantic region to be nearer to more family, friends, as well as just be closer to more stuff.

My job was fine, it wasn’t too stressful but also wasn’t challenging me in the ways I wanted. It felt very safe, and I was hungry for more. I had tried to find some different jobs available in higher ed adjacent organizations, but was coming up short in terms of actual postings. Any progress with the ones I did find fizzled out. I searched for campus based roles as well, and didn’t find what I was looking for there either.

Eventually, I stumbled across my current role as a Student Support Advisor, and the hiring process was smooth, fast, and fun (a rarity for higher ed from my experience). I was excited to jump into a position with a growing higher ed tech company changing the face of the field. It had a laid back culture, which I loved, and I was able to do what I did best to support the company; guide students to be successful as they moved forward in their studies with whatever they might need. I work with online MBA students at American University calling, emailing, and troubleshooting all sorts of things. I’m essentially an academic advisor and coach to these students, so the demands really depend on the needs of the student.

I felt I had given a lot of organizations a fair chance to impress me with their culture, their team, and the position. I never found anything that really spoke to me on a campus. They either were more of the same of what I was currently doing (which I was ready to move on from), had a culture where I didn’t see enough urgency and progress (was the problem with where I was), or the compensation just wasn’t worth the sacrifice (I know education is typically going to be paying less, but as a master’s educated professional working to support and build a family, I knew what I was worth).

The journey so far, one which started almost a year and a half ago, has been a mixture of fun, stress, growth, frustration, and a lot of self-exploration. I’ve learned a lot about how complex systems of higher education work, how they can work better, and what I (generally) want from the next step in my career. While the transition was difficult, between moving and getting used to a more metric driven culture, it would be hard for me to imagine going back to a campus role. It would have to be something like I haven’t encountered yet but I feel may be out there. I know some professionals have positions with the urgent, creative, laid back culture that I love but it really seems few and far between. It also seems it can rely solely on a single person in a position of decision making power to drive it, rather than an organizational commitment to continual improvement and progress in creating a stellar student experience.

I don’t know if my current position, department, or company is where I want to be for the long term. But for now, it is giving so many more growth opportunities than I was getting or I feel like I could be getting elsewhere. Plus, it’s been a fun ride. I feel even more strongly now that the wide pasture of positions in different higher ed adjacent organizations need to be featured more prominently in grad programs as potential options. These groups could benefit greatly our student development expertise, and we could use benefit just as much from their unique perspectives and opportunities.

While I don’t know where I’m ultimately headed yet, in the end, it’s all about the journey.

Dustin Ramsdell currently works as a Student Support Advisor at 2U helping to the support online MBA students at American University. He previously worked as a Resident Director at Husson University in Maine, and went to graduate school for College Student Affairs at Rutgers University in New Jersey. Things that make Dustin laugh are all things smartly silly, puppets, and a good pun. Connect with Dustin at his blog, on Twitter, or on LinkedIn.

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