Motivation Monday: Roman


Christiaens_Roman.png

Roman
Seattle University | 2011
English & Creative Writing


Hometown: Choteau, Montana
Currently: Assistant Director for Learning and Development at the Spectrum Center at University of Michigan
Self-described: Creative, hardworking, compassionate
Enjoys: Reading, exploring nature, playing piano, writing, and biking


College provided me with the platform to fully understand and claim my identities, connect across difference, and envision ways to build community.

Tell us about yourself!

I am deeply invested in education and believe in its connection to equity and social justice. College provided me with the platform to fully understand and claim my identities, connect across difference, and envision ways to build community. These values are intrinsically tied to my upbringing as a first generation student from a rural working-class background. I am committed to supporting students and working towards social change in higher education, and I bring this passion to my work. I use they/them/theirs and he/him/his pronouns.

 

Greatest source of inspiration

My parents have always been my source of inspiration. My father came from a farming family and has not lived outside a 100-mile radius of where he grew up. My mother is a self-taught bookkeeper and one of the hardest working people I know. My parents worked so hard for me to follow my dreams, and I am always grateful for their support.

 

How did other people help you get to where you are today?

College created the opportunity to share my story with others, which led to genuine connections with staff working in college administration. These staff members helped to instill confidence and nominated me for life changing opportunities. One opportunity was getting connected to a national undergraduate network of students interested in college administration (NASPA Undergraduate Fellows Program or "NUFP"). NUFP and the people a part of it were instrumental in helping me to graduate and establish a career after college. Because of the people who got me to where I am today, I value paying it forward and serving as a mentor to students from underrepresented backgrounds whenever possible.

 
 
Coffee or tea?
Coffee

Dog or cat?
Both!

PC or Mac?
Mac

Early bird or night owl?
Early bird

Cake or pie?
Both!
PIANO
 
 

Major / Minor
English & Creative Writing
Higher Ed and Student Affairs Admin (Master's)

Years Attended
2007-2011
2013-2015

Grad Year
2011
2015

 

Favorite thing

My two favorite things about college were developing positive mentor relationships with staff and faculty and having the opportunity to take classes that helped to transform my worldview and perspective.

 

Least favorite thing

College was a huge transition for me, and I lacked the social and financial capital to know how to navigate and thrive in the college setting. The first year was the hardest because people often made assumptions about my background, and I was shy about asking questions and putting myself out there.

 

Tell us about a challenge you faced. How did you overcome it?

My biggest challenge in college was the Honors Program I participated in for the first two years. I joined the Honors Program because it supported my financial aid, but in the first week, I quickly discovered that my writing, reading, and speaking skills were not on par with my fellow classmates. As a first generation student, I initially felt underprepared and intimidated in the Honors Program. I even remember meeting with a professor who expressed that I was not a good fit for the program. The ways that I overcame this challenge was valuing my elective classes, utilizing tutors and other academic resources on campus, and participating in a couple of student organizations that assured me of my abilities and served as healthy outlets for my frustrations and struggles in the Honors Program.

 
Q

How did you choose your major?

Since I first started college, my parents always asked me: “What are you going to do after college? How will your major help you get a job?” To answer their questions, I designated my first major in college as journalism. I loved to write, and journalism seemed like a practical major that could get me a job after college. Three years into my undergraduate career, I realized that I did not have any passion for journalism, and I switched my major to English with a focus on creative writing. Switching majors was one of the best decisions I made in college, and I was more invested in classes once I chose a major I love. Many different vocational fields value students from all types of majors, so I was easily able to translate my English major into the field I current work in.

 
VERMONT
 
 

What advice would you give to your freshman-year self?

Do not be afraid to ask for help! It may seem like most students know what they’re doing, but that is not always the case. Ask for help or direction from your advisor, your professors, your resident assistant and others whom you’ve built a relationship with. It’s important to take advantage of the many resources and support mechanisms that colleges have in place to help you succeed.

 

Best advice you received?

Pursue your passion. When I was at a crossroads as an undergraduate regarding my major and my career, I had a mentor who encouraged me to pursue my passion. By sticking with my strengths and choosing a major that I was invested in, I was able to use my newfound enthusiasm and energy to translate my academic career into my current vocation.

 

What's your secret for time management and productivity?

Variety. In my experience, it was important to maintain a steady job during college, be involved with other student leaders and balance this with my academic coursework. Having a variety of experiences and opportunities in college helped me to stay focused, and my extracurricular experiences greatly contributed to my sense of belonging on-campus.

 

How do you de-stress?

One way that I de-stress is by unplugging. An hour before I go to bed, I try to avoid any screen time and spend the hour reading and/or journaling. I also try to avoid looking at my phone first thing in the morning. Having intentional “unplug” time allows me to slow down and helps me to sleep better.

 

Book recommendation

Redefining Realness by Janet Mock
It's an amazing book that chronicles Janet’s quest for identity and includes her experience as a first generation, limited-income college student. While I did not read the book until after college, I wish this story had been available to me during undergrad.

 

Is there anything else that you'd like to share with the community?

As a student affairs professional, I have had the amazing opportunity to work at different colleges across the country. College administrators are deeply invested in supporting your mental health and your academic career. Do not hesitate to explore opportunities, ask for help, attend a student club meeting or utilize counseling services on-campus. Remember that your upbringing, family, and culture(s) have given you assets and the skills to succeed in college.



Can students contact you directly? If so, about what?

I'm open to connect with students interested in the field of student affairs and higher education
and students who want to learn about the Spectrum Center at the University of Michigan.

Connect with Roman