Guest Blogger: Cindy Kane, 2016-2017 ACE Fellow, Bridgewater State University

My significant professional association volunteer roles were coming to an end, I had finished my doctoral degree and I was questioning my next steps on my career path. As an experienced mid-level professional in student affairs, the search for top-quality professional development experiences had become a bit of a never-ending challenge. I’ll admit it, the one-shot convention experiences just weren’t going to be enough to answer some big and serious questions that were on my mind about my professional goals and who I am as a leader.

I know that I’m not the only one who wrestles with defining her place in the world as life moves through its transitions. As I looked from my space on the organizational chart and looked upward, I knew that I now had the credentials needed to open some more doors, but that I needed to clarify what I wanted for my next steps.

In my own head, I heard a reminder of the ACE Fellows program and I thought with envy of my academic colleagues who had access to that transformative opportunity.

I remember thinking, “I wish student affairs administrators had that type of opportunity.” I had mentioned interest in the program a number of years ago to a seasoned leader in my part of the profession, but got a clear message that the program wasn’t for someone with my background. Fast forward quite a few years and as I was eager to put my shiny new Ph.D. to work, I started thinking about the program again.

Unfortunately, that other voice showed up. You know, that evil voice of Doubt?

“You’ll never do that, it’s for faculty or academic administrators.”
“You’ll never be able to leave campus for that long.”

During a conversation with my Vice President one day, I finally had the guts to speak aloud of about my interest in the program one more time. Even when he agreed to start some conversations about it, Doubt came back.

“The President probably won’t go for it.”
“You probably won’t get selected.”
“Who has time to write this long application, anyway?”

My Vice President came back with the great news that I should go forward with the application and we agreed to just…see what happens. Recommendation letters were secured thanks to some incredibly supportive educators in my life and then we were off and running. The invitation to interview for the program came along and guess who came back? Doubt.

“You’ll need a new suit. Good luck finding that.”
“Why would they pick a student affairs person if they could pick faculty?”
“You’ll have to work twice as hard to get this. No pressure.”

While packing for that trip to the American Council on Education’s offices in Washington, DC, I figured out a great way lighten my load of baggage. Leave Doubt behind. Just for that trip…and see what happens.

By silencing those negative voices, I got to focus on what I could learn from meeting my fellow candidates and got some great practice in how I talk about my skills as a leader. The interviews helped me get one step closer to identify my vision for higher education through the interview meetings with retired college and university presidents. Rather than running through the “what if” possible problems I could encounter on this important trip, the focus on being in the moment gave me some incredible new relationships, helped me to be more relaxed in my conversations and to truly leave that selection process with sincere gratitude for the opportunity. I wasn’t saying that just to protect my pride, I really meant it! It was great.

After enjoying that experience I promised myself I would…just see what happened next.

Getting selected for the program was probably one of the best boosts of professional confidence I’ve had in a long time. After getting that acceptance letter and finalizing my placement for Wheaton College in Massachusetts for Spring 2017, I found a way to unlock a new opportunity that higher education folklore told me would be truly transformative.

I was ready – ready to do more than just see what happens. I was going to make something happen and leave Doubt behind!

Guest Blogger