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Running Head: STRENGTHS

Strengths
Vanessa Calonzo
Seattle University

STRENGTHS
Leadership (LO 2,4 8,10; Artifacts A, B, C2, C3, & G)
As I look back to the strengths I have built through the Student Development
Administration (SDA) program, it has all been surrounded around a theme of leadership. I now

have a deeper understanding of the demands and implications that my leadership can influence in
my work at the community college. I am finally acknowledging that I can see myself as an
influential leader. When I started the program, I had a little confidence in my abilities. Today, I
look back and realize how much I was able to accomplish these past five years and I see how my
leadership and confidence has grown. The areas of my leadership I will explore in this reflection
are communications, defined values, and resiliency. In all these areas, I have demonstrated
strengths that I am proud of and am excited to refine as I continue in my professional
development as a leader.
Communications (LO 8, 10; Artifacts A, C2, G)
I believe being a strong communicator has been crucial to navigating leadership
challenges of personnel, project management, and change in my work experience. I do not think
I was a novice in communications when I started the program, but I do feel I now can better
articulate concepts that relate to myself, the institution I work for, and to the higher education
student development field. When I looked at my early writing as demonstrated in Artifact C2 (A
Philosophy of College Access Outreach Work) and compare it to my writing from Artifact G
(My Leadership Philosophy), I am proud to see the improvements in flow, vocabulary, and
articulation of reflection in my more recent work. This boost in confidence and accomplishment
of SDA Learning Outcome #8 (Communicating effectively in speech and in writing), is due
to all the development done in our classes and the opportunities I have had to reflect on all these
core topics and discussions.

STRENGTHS

One class I credit to helping me become a better writer was SDAD 578 (Student
Development Theory) with Dr. Tim Wilson. One of our assignments every week was to
summarize the key aspects of the theories we were studying. We were limited to one-page,
double-spaced reports. I had a tendency to be too detailed and these concepts were very
complicated. Practicing this week-by-week and getting productive feedback helped me be more
concise in my writing and even in my verbal communications. I have found so much practical
use for this developed skill in networking and in communications I have via email, over the
phone, and in person.
I still have more confidence to build in communications, but I do feel this is one of my
top rated skills. I credit this strength to helping me advance in my career and achieving SDA
Learning Outcome #10 (Establishing and enhancing professional identity). My level of
responsibilities increased while I was in the program as described in Artifact A (Polished
Resume). I went from Director of Student Outreach, Admissions, & Recruitment to becoming
Director of New Student Services with additional responsibilities of orientation and intake
programs. I have served on numerous hiring committees and even led many of them. I supervise
full time staff and have implemented professional development plans for our department. I am
finding myself being requested to go to district more and more because of my historical insight
into outreach, communications, and program development. All of this leadership work has
required strong communication skills, and I definitely feel the SDA Program has helped me
refine my skills in this area so I could take up these opportunities of advancement.
Defined Values (LO 4; Artifacts C2, C3, G)
Having a strong understanding of ones values is essential to being a good leader. When I
started in the program I felt a passion for student development work, but today I have such a

STRENGTHS

deeper appreciation for the values that have helped me to define this passion. From our SDAD
577 (Foundations) course all the way to our SDAD 5900 (Capstone) course, we were coached on
identifying what is important to us in our professional practice. I now have a very clear sense of
what I value in my work.
Artifact G (My Leadership Philosophy) showcases my reflection on how my values
intersect with the kind of leader I want to be and the setting I feel most empowered in. I believe
in the importance of authenticity and trust. I practice servant leadership and value the person.
Care needs to be at the center of the culture I work in. Artifact C2 (A Philosophy for College
Outreach Work) describes my analysis of how a students identity and experiences in the world
can impact how they see themselves. At the heart of this analysis is an appreciation for diversity
and identity development. I want these values imbedded in my work because it serves as my way
of advocating for underserved populations. I have learned through the SDA program and in my
work experience, that so much of a students success is influenced by the context in which they
have experienced the world. Artifact C3 (Inspiration to Action presentation) showcases my
personal experience with identity and social justice and how it has shaped the advocacy I want to
practice. These values are core to me and feel the most aligned to my personal and spiritual
calling in life as a leader. These developed values demonstrate SDA Learning Outcome # 4
(Understanding and fostering diversity, justice and a sustainable world formed by global
perspective and Jesuit Catholic tradition). Ultimately, having a clear sense of these values is a
strength because I feel empowered to practice what I preach!
Resiliency (LO 2; Artifact A, B & G)
Another aspect of leadership that I feel demonstrates my strengths is the resiliency I have
shown through my journey in the program. I believe a leader must be resilient when facing

STRENGTHS

challenges. The SDA Program was not easy for me. I came in as an untraditional student already
having a full-time administrator level position. Working full-time was important for me to
maintain because I love my job and felt so much connection between work and what I was
learning in the program. As you can see in Artifact A (Polished Resume), I have gained
positions I am very proud of in my experience. The challenge in this situation has always been
commitment of time and energy. Often, I would have major priorities at work and major
priorities for school. I did not have the luxury of extending my 40 hour per week because I had to
go to class. I often ended up working around my weekends to meet my professional demands and
my evenings and weekends had to be dedicated to homework. This took commitment and selfcontrol, especially at the expense of personal commitments.
Life also got complicated when I became pregnant in the middle of the program. Timing
was tricky because of my age, childcare opportunities, and personal hopes for more children. I
was physically and emotionally challenged. Pregnancy was one of the most humbling
experiences of my life in understanding my limits. Fighting through nausea early on and then
body aches and fatigue throughout did not help when I was trying to focus on school. I tend to be
a perfectionist, but with all these factors on my shoulders, doing my best (far from great) was all
I could do. Having my son has also been one of the most joyous experiences in my life. I love
motherhood and it has taught me so much about my limitless capacity for love, the importance of
patience, and how care for others is a core part of who I am. Artifact G (My Leadership
Philosophy) discusses how being a mom has helped me better appreciate how care is integrated
in my leadership approach. What I have learned about being a parent to my step-son Raymont
and my son Royce is engrained in how I have been able to engage in what we have learned in the
SDA program. I truly believe it is a strength I carry with me in how I practice leadership in my

STRENGTHS

professional capacity in the community college and in my personal life. Artifact B (Integrated
Mission Statement) weaves these reflections of my identity, motherhood, and my calling to
demonstrate how I hope influence this world positively.
There has been constant push and pull on my priorities because of my situation these past
five years. I definitely could not have gotten to this point in the program if I did not have the
support and encouragement of my faculty, mentors, friends, and family. I also feel it is important
to acknowledge that my resiliency has helped me be successful. I have been tested intellectually,
emotionally, and physically, and I am still here finishing my last two quarters. I am more proud
of my accomplishments in this program because of the struggles I have faced and I know this
will help me be more aware of the stresses that students I will work with face in their own
college experience. I feel I have a better understanding of student barriers and can be more
mindful as I move forward as an administrator. This demonstrates the core of SDA Learning
Outcome #2 (Understanding students and student issues). As a leader, I will often face
situations of adversity but will be able to draw from this experience as way to show that I can
rise and grow from the challenges.