Goodbye to the SPA program at Western Washington U.

I learned today via Twitter that the Student Personnel Administration program at Western Washington University has been phased out. I don’t even know when this happened. I learn this from a Tweet about a Seattle Times article?!!? I guess being an alumni doesn’t mean much or something. Actually, I know that’s not true. What really happened is definitely described correctly here in the article:

But some of the losses will hurt.

“We’re seeing some really good programs go by the wayside,” said Associate Professor Larry Estrada, who taught in one of the eliminated programs, a master’s degree program in student affairs administration.

The program helped prep graduates to become college administrators, and was so popular it often turned students away, Estrada said. But when several faculty members who taught in the program retired, it was phased out.

This program only had a few faculty when I was there. I mean the core classes had two teachers and then there were the supplemental classes that were part of the School of Education. So the fact that the heart and soul of the program had gone doesn’t surprise me.

I can’t say enough about the program at Western. Or the experiences I had working for the Union & Activities department.

I really learned a great deal about being a professional, and gained perspective about how different universities do things different ways. I learned about how Community Colleges are viewed differently in the Pacific NW, I learned about development theories which finally helped explain the undergraduate experiences I had had as a student leader.

Even though I was the “Southerner” (classmates unfairly nicknamed me NASCAR), and one of two recent graduates (meaning I was the youngest),  I was able to make my mark and was always taken seriously. I straddled the line between student and para-professional and learned more about myself because of it.

Moving across the country to pursue my interest in working in Student Activities was the one of the best things I ever did in my life, even though at the time, it was one of the hardest. All of my friends were still undergrads back in NC, having a ball without me. Including the boyfriend that wasn’t after about four months. Again, being the youngest, everyone else had lives and ambitions and so I was pretty much on my own. Okay, so I lived with my younger brother for awhile before he started Undergrad at WWU. But that doesn’t count. He hated living with me. I thought I had made the WORST decision in my life. But as with most things that you really have to fight for, to walk through the fire to get to the other side – it was something that I had to do to be who I am today.

My parents moved to Seattle right after I graduated from UNC-Asheville, which is how my brother and I ended up going to WWU. They still live out there, and this past summer my husband and I visited Bellingham. I still remember the town fondly. It truly is “Beautiful Bellingham”, but I didn’t realize that I had not been in Bellingham for over 10 years. At first I couldn’t believe it. No way had it been that long…but adding up the years since graduation I realized it was true. It’s actually been 13 years since I left. I guess that’s a long enough amount of time for the faculty to retire, etc. and for an amazing program to dwindle and die out.


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