Members Spotlight: Michelle Ward and Shawn Clark

Hi there! We are your writers and would like to take a moment to talk about who we are and how we got involved with the Coalition for Graduate Students and New Professionals.

My name is Michelle and I am a Residential Coordinator at Salem College, the first continuous running women’s college for the history buffs. In my free time, I search for ways to develop into the budding successful student affairs professional by serving on the CGSNP directorate as co-editor of the 8th Vector!

How long have you been with the Coalition and what got you involved in the first place?

I have been with the Coalition since the 2014 Convention in Indy which upon reflection seems like forever ago. My love for the coalition stems from being a grad student trying to find my place in the field and amongst professionals. In Indy, I knew there was a place for me after attending one the open business meeting and talking to Chad Mandala about his role and what the Coalition itself stood meant to him. In total the conversation lasted not even five minutes, but I knew that I wanted to be involved in helping other grad students find their place in such a large organization. When I was selected to work with the 8th Vector after that I knew it was love at first sight. I like to think of myself as a writer and helping other students showcase their interests through writing was something I wanted to experience first hand. #shoutout2Chad

Why did you choose this field and your specialty within it?

I attending Old Dominion University in Norfolk, VA with the impression that I was going to dental school once I graduated. Enter Chemistry, a not so great grade and a change in my career mindset. Having worked in various capacities, including developing a love for Campus Recreation, I found myself exploring the idea of being in college forever. Plus, I knew the students would keep me young and hip. After talking to my first-year academic advisor (yes, almost 4 years later!), I finally had a name for what I wanted to do: Student Affairs. One grad program and a year in my role here at Salem, I am thriving and striving for greatness! I wouldn’t say that I have a specialty because my background consists of various functions in student affairs, but in my current role, as anyone who has worked in [or can empathize with] housing knows, I can exercise every function and wear multiple hats! Jack of all trades, life-long learner of all! I wake up every day knowing my goal is to help at least one student get closer to their definition of success. 

What is one thing that you are still struggling with as a professional?

As a new professional, I know I struggle with maintaining balance and practicing self care. There are time when I recognize the need to make time for myself. However, the job never stops. There’s always a student in need who I want to help be prosperous and successful. Each day brings a new joy and challenge which I welcome with open arms. I know the day will come when it finally clicks as long as I continue to work for that balance and never tip my scale in a negative direction. I view it as aging gracefully in field!


My name is Shawn and I am currently the Associate Director with University Connect and Persist at Northern Kentucky University. In addition to my amazing professional role, I am also working on wrapping up my Ph.D. in College Student Personnel at the University of Louisville. I know, you are wondering what I must do with all of my free time. Well, I sit on the directorate with the CGSNP and work with the 8th Vector!

Here goes my attempt at spotlighting myself as a member:

How long have you been with the Coalition and what got you involved in the first place?

I have been a member of the Coalition and on the directorate since the 2014 convention. I had friends in my doctoral program who sat on the directorate and they invited me to some events. After meeting other members, I realized that I shared the same passion and drive with them and took the opportunity to get involved. I also wanted to start taking advantage of the leadership opportunities with ACPA and the Coalition for Graduate Students and New Professionals seemed like the perfect avenue.

Why did you choose this field and your specialty within it?

I got involved like so many of us did as an undergraduate student by becoming a Resident Assistant. I was originally in college to become an interpreter for the UN. However, after taking on leadership roles at Miami University, I discovered that this field existed. After realizing that people would pay me to conduct programs, icebreakers, and generally help students discover their path in college, I was thrilled. I went on grad school at Grand Valley State University and continued to work in Housing. After graduating with my Masters, I moved around a bit at several institutions and landed at NKU in my current role. I get to work with students who are at risk of leaving the institution, either personally, academically, or financially and design specific individual strategies to keep them in college. I love that I still get to impact student lives and I have the added perk of collecting and analyzing all the data in our office (please note, I am unapologetically nerdy).

What is one thing that you are still struggling with as a professional?

I would say that even though I love what I do and how far I have come in the field, I am still struggling with the imposter phenomenon. For those of you who don’t know, that is the sense that you are indeed pretending to be grown-up, good enough, professional, fill-in-the-blank enough and that people will figure it out. I believe that I do great work and I believe that I make a difference, but being a 28 year old female in such the leadership position that I have is still something that I struggle to own at times. If any of you have ever felt this way, I want you to know that you are not alone and that you are good enough, you have the job you hold for a reason and try not to doubt yourself needlessly.

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