I have been assisting the campus-wide basic needs committee with educating faculty and staff about basic needs resources available on-campus and in the Pittsburgh region. I have also been able to provide recommendations to senior administration to promote the holistic well-being of the student population based on identified gaps and barriers between areas of need and current resource availability.
I think the most challenging thing COVID-19 brought to my VISTA terms is the lack of face-to-face interaction. I was ready to be in different rooms around campus meeting new people. I was ready to highlight the work that myself and others on campus are doing to meet our students’ basic needs. I was excited for VISTA retreats and being able to get to know the cohort more. I have taken advantage of several virtual events and conferences that have been held at Pitt and other institutions where I am able to chat with people. I have been able to join several groups like CCNYPAs Community of Practice where I get to listen, learn, and speak with other higher ed professionals. The VISTA Power UPP events have been great for getting to know the cohort better and learning more about their work. I think I have done my best making do with the opportunities I have been presented due to COVID-19.
Aside from the obvious transition to remote work I have taken a real leadership role as the “Student Affairs Basic Needs Expert”. It is a title my supervisors have told me to own, though I would not call myself an expert. Being known as the “expert” or basic needs info guy has helped build my confidence from year one to year two of VISTA. It has led me to many different opportunities to advocate and educate our community on the importance of meeting our students’ basic needs. I have seen myself take a positive step in owning the knowledge that I have with confidence, and not needing to second guess myself.
Ask for help whenever you need it and come prepared to listen and learn from all of those around you.
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