Robyn Webster and Margaret Hindman are graduate assistants for the Off-Campus Student Services office. Both are pursuing degrees in Counseling at the University of Arkansas while working for the OCSS office. They enjoy working with students and using their various talents to help students who live off campus succeed in their academic and personal lives. Webster did her undergraduate degree here, whereas Hindman went to LSU for her undergrad. The two recall their journeys to become graduate assistants at the U of A.
“I got super lucky” Hindman said. “I had a friend that I knew from Louisiana who worked here as an Undergraduate Student Assistant and she graduated and told me that there’s this really great office that you should look into.” Hindman did, and she “started as a program assistant and I got to know everybody and I just fell in love with it.” She recalls realizing the scope Student Affairs had when she began working for the office. “I didn’t really know much about Student Affairs until I was part of it, and I was like, ‘Wow, it does so many different things that I participated in during undergrad. Someone planned that. It didn’t just happen.’ All the Student Affairs activities helped me to adjust to college when I was a new student. “
Webster, on the other hand, said that her involvement stemmed from her undergrad experience at the U of A. “I was involved. I was Greek, I volunteered at Habitat for Humanity, so I was familiar with Student Affairs, but certainly not all of it. It was important for me to be working and to be totally entrenched in the college experience.” Student Affairs helped facilitate her involvement at the U of A and eventually led her to the Off-Campus Student Services office because of her positive undergrad experience.
Now that the pair works for Off-Campus Student Services, the two have several responsibilities. Hindman said, “I primarily work with freshmen commuters. It is students who don’t see the flyers in the dorms, don’t know how to get involved on campus, have a lot of time management issues. I help connect students to that information.” Hindman assists these students to get information on various U of A activities and familiarize them with their schedule before they begin classes. Additionally, Hindman coordinates “Freshmen Success Mentors” which is a program that connects off-campus freshmen to upper classmen. The mentors “log their interactions with mentees every week and then I look at it and advise them with different services on campus that I think would benefit their goals.” Finally, Hindman does benchmarking and research which helps to see how affective their programs are in reaching students.
One of Webster’s primary duties is to send out newsletters every week to off-campus students. Additionally, Webster creates many of the office’s marketing materials.
“I create signage, banners, do social media, and designs. I love doing it. I had a base knowledge of Illustrator because I like to make my own stuff at home. I really enjoy the level of autonomy that I do have in this role.” Webster also expressed her gratitude that her own personality can shine in the marketing materials that she creates. “I love that they
allow me to be a bit funny,” she said. “We have this one sticker that is an outline of Arkansas that says ‘Hill of a Commute’ and students love that. I want the marketing materials to be fun. I love that I can bring my sarcasm to the job.”
The pair also performs referrals for students for the services on campus. “It’s hard to know all the different avenues on campus if they don’t live on it, so we help them,” said Hindman. She also laughed that their office gets random frequent visitors as well. “Students will pop into our office and say, ‘I don’t know what my major should be” and we’ll help them with that. We don’t do advising, but we make sure that they find the right people on campus” to help them.
Although the two have different roles, they said nothing is done on their own. “We do everything as a team.” Hindman said, “we really strive to meet students where they are. We’re thinking of other avenues to reach students. We try to evaluate every program to figure out what went well and what can be better for the future.”
Interestingly, the two’s experience with Student Affairs has caused them to want to work on college campuses long term. Webster said that she is “interested in doing counseling on the college campus…I want to know about resources that are on campus that are helpful for students who are needing any type of psychological services.” Similarly Hindman said, “I’m hoping to become a college professor and also work with kids through play therapy.” She also said, “But I love working with Student Affairs, so I’ve thought about how I can combine them.”
Both also expressed their gratefulness for the GA position: “in the GA job I’ve learned about personal biases and serving people with respect. I’ve really appreciated the professional development that I’ve been able to have during the position,” Hindman said. “I went to the White Privilege conference with about eight other Graduate Assistants. That was just the most eye-opening experience,” Webster said. Besides the content in the conference, Webster said that she met and learned about grad students studying Higher Education, their programs, and their struggles. “The opportunity to go to those experiences and being supported was awesome,” she said.
Finally, the two were asked what they thought the mission of Off-Campus was, and they said, “meeting the students where they are.” Whether it is a question about school, home, or life in general, the office wants to be a resource to each student. Webster concluded, “Come to us with any sort of question, we will find an answer for you. We will connect you to someone good. We want to do and be whatever and wherever the students need us to be.”