Grad School: An Interview with Matt Kent

Matt Kent is a 2014 graduate of Southern Oregon University; he is studying higher education administration at Old Dominion University and is the Assistant Hall Director for the Virginia and Ireland Houses at ODU.

EB: What is your graduate program like? What courses do you take and what sorts of things are you reading?

MK: I am in a Higher Education/Student Affairs Master’s program; the focus of my graduate studies is on practical experience and therefore we are required to complete several internships and maintain a graduate assistantship outside of the program while working on our classes. The classes I take have a focus on student development and politics, trends, and issues in higher education. Most of my classes are a blend of the psychology, sociology, and education disciplines. I take classes like Contemporary Issues in Higher Education, The Contemporary College Student and Diversity, and Student Development theory. Much of what I read comes from the Chronicle of Higher Education and then academic journals in the education and psychology fields.

EB: How has your experience so far shaped your career goals?

MK: As far as the master’s program, it is designed so each student is currently working in the field they intend to work in post-graduation. For example, I want to work in Residence Life and Housing, and I have a graduate assistantship as an Assistant Hall Director as well as a summer internship at Sonoma State University as a Summer Area Coordinator. The program puts a heavy emphasis on students having opportunities to apply what they learn in real world situations to prepare them for those first full-time staff and administrative roles. As a graduate of Southern Oregon University’s English department, I feel that I was extremely prepared for the writing intensive work that I am asked to do as a graduate student.

EB: What is the most rewarding part and the most challenging?

MK: The most challenging part of graduate school would be balancing the actual coursework with the job and the internships, all of which is required. It’s very easy to put more of your time and attention into your graduate assistantship and completely let school slide. Much of the assignments consist of reading 10-50 pages of academic writing or working on a group project outside of class, and so it is easy to let these assignments pile up. Staying motivated and engaged can be challenging.

One of the most rewarding parts is interactions with other students and faculty in your program. Every member of my cohort is extremely passionate about students, student affairs, or higher education as a whole and that shared passion is really exciting. We spend a significant portion of class-time discussing various issues and policies and being a part of that discussion is extremely rewarding. Another aspect of my program that I find extremely rewarding is the real-world student affairs experience that I get through my experiences in my assistantship and in my internships.

EB: What’s been your focus and how has grad school changed you?

MK: My personal focus has been on gaining the skills and knowledge I need to work in and make change in student affairs. I have spent a great deal of time learning and applying student development theory through my courses and assistantships. In addition, I have done some research and presentation-work on First Generation Students and their adjustment to college. Grad school has really helped me to widen my focus and expose me to a variety of different issues.

EB: Any advice for students considering going on for more school?

MK: DON’T DO IT!—Just kidding. My advice would be to understand what you are looking to gain out of that experience, understand what you need in a school and graduate program to be successful, and to be prepared for feelings of intense burn-out. I remember while I was in my last year of undergrad, my classmates would talk about how tired we were, how ready we were to be done, and then jokingly compare how long we had experienced “Senior-itis.” That feeling of burnout only intensifies in graduate school; it’s less of getting out and it will go away, and more understanding how you need to motivate yourself while doing the work and the studying. And choose a program that is cohort based—your peers will be your best support network.

EB: What’s next for you?

MK: I am currently finishing my first year of grad school—I will graduate in May of 2016. I’ll be looking for a full-time hall director position, ideally on the West Coast.

EB: Thanks for talking with us.

MK: My pleasure! Congratulations Class of 2015!

About Ed Battistella

Edwin Battistella’s latest book Sorry About That: The Language of Public Apology was released by Oxford University Press in June of 2014.
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