Mastering Service: An Adviser's Reflection

AdviseMI is an initiative of the Michigan College Access Network that works with AmeriCorps to place recent college graduates in Michigan high schools with low college-going rates. The advisers are trained to help students navigate the complex college exploration process, retake college admissions tests, apply to colleges that are a good match/fit, complete the FAFSA, secure financial aid, and matriculate to college.

Brittany Hall is a first-year adviser who serves at Ferndale High School.

One of the natural trajectories for AmeriCorps members after our year(s) of service is to pursue a graduate degree. The work that we are doing ignites our passion and brings to light what truly fulfills us, which could explain why so many of us choose to continue our education and expand our knowledge base. Doing so enables us to best serve our communities and our world as we move into our career and continue our service in other ways. Several members also choose to work on their degree during their time of service. I want to share with you some of the challenges and rewards of serving and being in school, and how this experience has contributed to my service.

My experience coming into AdviseMI and serving my first year as an AmeriCorps member has certainly been unique because of my educational background. I am one of very few members of my cohort who came in with a master’s degree. I was right on the cusp of not being eligible to apply for the position since I graduated in 2015 with my bachelor’s degree, but the search was extended, and I immediately jumped on the opportunity to get in and interview with service sites. While I have not served and been in graduate school at the same time, I can speak to two key pieces with confidence: the workload/added stress of being a graduate student and what having an extended base of knowledge can do for your service.

One of the biggest challenges of taking graduate level courses during your time of service will likely be the time commitment. Similar to a service position, I was a graduate assistant at Oakland University while I pursued my degree. It became exhausting to balance my 20 hours a week and make time for classes, homework, and self-care. The level of academic rigor is quite different from that of the undergraduate experience, so I had to adjust to a new way of thinking/learning and set aside more time for school. No matter which graduate degree you pursue, I can promise that there will be a copious amount of reading for each and every course you take. You will also be challenged to think more critically and holistically, which can take a while to adjust to. Fitting all of these new pieces into the puzzle that is your life can be a challenge, but I promise it is possible! 

In my opinion, there are far more pros than cons when it comes to obtaining a graduate level degree as you serve. Depending on the program you choose, much of your knowledge will come to life through class discussions. As a service member, I see society and societal issues through a unique lens, which can enhance both you and your peers’ understanding of a particular theory, issue, or topic that you are covering in class. Most importantly, though, the knowledge that I am gaining in the classroom is bound to transfer over to my work as a service member. I have found that my degree has lent itself to my service work. I am able to dig deeper and meet my students with a better understanding because of the social justice aspect of my graduate program. My student development background has allowed me to foster an environment of understanding, patience, and growth in my office. I guarantee you will find yourself using pieces of what you learn from your graduate degree in the service work that you do. Putting theory to practice will help you better absorb knowledge and will enhance your service experience: it is truly a win-win situation. Additionally, AmeriCorps supports us financially by offering the opportunity to earn the education award. This allows all of us to pursue our dreams and not feel as financially burdened as some folks might.

 Knowledge is power. Use what you know to take action, improve yourself, improve the communities you’re in, and impact others by spreading your knowledge. Always be receptive to new information, too!


Author: Brittany Hall, College Adviser, Ferndale High School
Posted: Dec. 11, 2018

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