Empathetic Work Ethic

An Empathetic Work Ethic: Seeing Students for What They Need

By: Brooke Moreland (bromorel@iupui.edu)

Many staff members work with students and make their student affairs approach central to providing guidance, resources, and assistance to the students they interact with daily. This is positive, because it shows that staff members are connecting what they learned about student development and adding it to their everyday leadership. Though theory is a great guide in working with students on college campuses, a visceral connection between student needs and staff members could lead to board room discussions that have the students at heart.

Subjectivity Identities and Serving Others

As a young professional working in student affairs, I have had the pleasure of serving the IUPUI 21st Century Scholars Success Program. The 21st Century Scholars program serves over 2,000 students on campus, serving students who may not have the social capital to navigate a college campus as they transition from high school. As a high school student, I also identified as low-income and I lacked the social capital to understand the culture of a college campus. My college experience was filled with confusion about what specific offices did on campus. I was unfamiliar with how to integrate myself into various communities. It was the staff members who empathized with my student needs who answered my questions and assisted me in navigating the college campus. My subjectivity identities regarding income and being first generation has allowed me to hear student needs and help students like I would have helped myself when I was in college. I see myself in students as I work in student affairs. I hear their issues and use balanced decision-making to allocate the correct campus resources to alleviate student issues.

Empathetic Work Ethic

An empathetic work ethic is the effort that someone puts into their daily leadership to put the needs of the people first. An empathetic work ethic can be described as possessed by someone who is willing to hear the needs of others, even if that person can do nothing about a student’s circumstance.

This kind of work ethic can also be seen as steward-oriented. Having student needs at the forefront of the practices of university personnel can make students feel connected. Working with students and letting them know that their needs were important to me made them feel comfortable and willing to communicate issues that occurred in their lives. I sit down with students and not only ask them about their 21st Century Scholarship, but listen to their needs pertaining to their college experience. I have had students show gratitude for being made to feel important and validated. Sometimes even the narratives of professionals can be used to encourage students as they experience hardship. I may not totally understand the problems that students may experience, but listening, nonverbal communication skills, and directly communicating that I am here as a resource has been impactful for many 21st Century Scholars. There are many students that have returned to the 21st Century Scholars office just to follow up and share about how their academic and personal circumstances have improved. People can feel when they are cared about and valued. An empathetic work ethic communicates directly and indirectly that people matter. Students need to know that they matter. Students already have enough to worry about outside of their academic obligations. Being a professional who takes the time out to let students know that they matter and that I care about their academic goals and plans is important. This charge is at the forefront of my everyday leadership, because just as someone supported the notion that I could be successful, I will do the same for others.