SRU students earn NASPA Undergraduate Fellowships


Erin O’Connor

Erin O’Connor, a Slippery Rock University psychology major from New Castle, is one of two SRU students to be accepted into the NASPA, Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education Undergraduate Fellows Program.

Dec. 21, 2016

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - Erin O'Connor isn't one to sit back and watch the world go by. In fact, the Slippery Rock University psychology major from New Castle enjoys leading the charge.

Whether serving in her roles as a peer mentor or Slippery Rock Student Government Association commuter senator, O'Connor can usually be found at the forefront of providing services for her fellow students.

They are roles that serve her well, especially given her career aspiration of working in higher education.

LaMorie Marsh


O'Connor recently received a boost in that direction when she and LaMorie Marsh, a senior English major from New York City, were accepted into the NASPA, Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education Undergraduate Fellows Program.

NASPA is the country's leading association for the advancement, health and sustainability of the student affairs profession. The agency's work provides high-quality professional development, advocacy and research for more than 15,000 members in all 50 states, 25 countries and eight U.S. territories.

According to NASPA, the mission of the undergraduate fellowship program is to increase the number of historically disenfranchised and underrepresented professionals in student affairs and/or higher education, including but not limited to those of racial and ethnic-minority background; those having a disability; and those identifying as LGBTQ.

"I am beyond excited about being a member of this program because being a student affairs professional is my dream," said O'Connor. "Helping students transform themselves into leaders and develop professional skills is something I would like to help students do in the future."

Marsh, who works in the Office for Inclusive Excellence, said the news of his fellowship reached him during the most stressful week of the semester - final exams.

"It turned my bad day into a fantastic one almost immediately," Marsh said with a laugh. "I remember falling onto my bed and with a breath of relief saying to myself, 'Oh man, this is by far the greatest news I heard all day.'"

To achieve the program's mission, student Fellows are expected to develop:

  • Writing, research, and presentation skills;
  • Ethical decision making skills;
  • Cultural competency skills;
  • Professional networking skills;
  • Ability to identify and develop personal, academic and career goals;
  • Awareness and understanding of engaged citizenship and service;
  • Understanding about multiple relationships to power and privilege;
  • Understanding of the history, mission and purpose of student affairs and the various institutional types and structures within higher education; and
  • Understanding of NASPA's organization and structure

Each Fellow is paired with a University mentor. Corrine Gibson, director of the Office for Inclusive Excellence, will serve as O'Connor's mentor during the semester-long fellowship, while David Wilmes, associate provost for student success, will mentor Marsh.

Fellows and their mentors participate in an ongoing exchange designed to provide Fellows a chance to develop a sense of what a career in student affairs or higher education might be like. Fellows and mentors will meet in a formal advising session at least once a month, developing a schedule of meetings, as well as expectations for one another. Fellows and mentors also participate in an activity together at least three times per semester.

O'Connor said the fellowship will offer opportunities to attend conferences; network with those in the student affairs profession outside of SRU; and gain access to job openings.

"This is a mentorship program for undergraduate students that plan to pursue a career in student affairs," she said. "It is for students of minority groups that may not have the same opportunities that other students have; or have to overcome challenges due to a minority status."

O'Connor said she "fell in love" with the idea of a career in student affairs because of her involvement with SRU's First-Year Leadership Scholar Program.

"I joined FLSP my sophomore year and that provided my initial exposure to the world of student affairs," said O'Connor. "The graduate assistants I've worked closely under are masters' students in the student affairs program and they have taught me what (working in student affairs) can offer me. Since that exposure, I've been in love with the field and have worked to get closer to being a working professional every day."

After graduating from SRU, O'Connor wants to pursue a master's degree in student affairs and seek employment at a university with a focus on diversity and leadership development.

"I do not have a 'dream school' that I want to work for, I simply want to work alongside the students that need me the most and watch them grow and develop in the four years we would have together," she said.

Marsh said the heart of the fellowship program will enable him to encounter a variety of experiences that will further his career training.

"This is a huge deal to me, I always had an interest in student affairs but I wasn't sure how the process of picking a graduate school and being accepted really worked," he said. "So when I found out about the program, I was beyond excited to learn that I would not only be able to learn more about the field, but I also would have a more hands-on experience and insider look to my future career."

At SRU, Marsh serves as vice president for Men of Distinction, a student organization that is "dedicated to the improvement and betterment of young men on campus." While the organization is open to all genders, its primary focus is "to transform young freshman boys into gentleman." He also serves as a genre editor of SLAB, the student literary magazine; and co-editor of The Roxy, SRU's journal of media and film criticism, history and theory.

"As a student who is part of an underrepresented minority, I am both excited and honored to work with my faculty mentor to make a name for myself in the field of student affairs," said Marsh. "I am beyond grateful to all the faculty, staff, and graduate students of SRU who helped push me to apply to the program. I don't know what I would have done if it wasn't for the University and the amazing people who work and study here."

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