Andrea Salyer joined the SAA program with 10 years of experience in higher education, choosing Lewis & Clark because it centers race and social justice in its curriculum.
Andrea Salyer, Student Affairs Administration ’22, has traveled a winding path on her way to graduate school. She had 10 years of experience working in Student Life before applying to the SAA program, and brought with her a lot of “weird” and “challenging” stories from her time working at a local community college. She also identifies as a high school drop out, and is the first in her family to go to college and complete a degree.
“Because of that previous experience, I don’t take any of this for granted,” says Salyer. “I also think it helped me to bring passion, excitement, and thoughtfulness to our space.”
Salyer chose Lewis & Clark’s Student Affairs Administration Program because it centers race and social justice in its curriculum.
“Not only are we learning about how to create inclusive spaces and be social justice educators, we’ve experienced first hand what that looks like. Our professors create the curriculum and the outcomes with us, not for us. There is compassion and support baked into the program design. Our classes centered discussions of race and equity and the professors made me feel as though I were a partner in the learning process, where justice was the ultimate goal.”
Salyer’s cohort began their graduate school journey in the midst of a global pandemic and raging wildfires, after a summer of nightly protests in Portland for racial justice. While she says it was undeniably a very intense and stressful time, the deep connections that were formed amongst the members of her cohort made it possible to continue.
“When I felt I didn’t deserve to be there, when I felt like it was too much, there was a strong sense of community knowing we were all in it together. Being a part of this cohort was my absolute favorite part of this program.”
Salyer has found a supportive network amongst the graduate school faculty as well, and is deeply appreciative of the opportunities and expertise they have provided. She describes the faculty as a great mix of practitioners currently working in the field and academics who are exclusively research and teaching focused. She had the opportunity to work with SAA program director Professor Brenda Sifuentez on a Decolonizing Experiential Learning Independent Research project, calling it an “incredible experience,” and feels she was both supported and given grace when needed.
“Not only did I get to drive my own learning and thinking around a subject I am passionate about, but I felt like Professor Sifuentez had my back. Her support made me feel valued and seen. She coached me through some tough moments, and I am a better educator because of it.”
Salyer also found a transformative mentor in her practicum supervisor, Tori Leder. She credits Leder with changing the way she thought about equity work in higher education and helping her find her passion.
“Tori was my supervisor during my practicum with the Office of Equity and Inclusion at Lewis & Clark. I was reviewing LC’s bias response program and Tori was such a critical mentor. She was so compassionate and supportive, I’d never really experienced such love and care in a work setting. Ultimately, that experience and her mentorship helped get me a job working at another Office of Equity and Inclusion. This leader changed my life.”
Salyer encourages prospective students who are considering the student affairs administration program to really educate themselves about what this journey will entail.
“Reach out to people who have gone through the program, invite them to coffee. Talk to the professors, walk around campus. Decide if it’s the right time in your life. Make sure you’re ready and trust when you get here the faculty will be a support system for you.”
When asked about how she plans to incorporate social justice into her post-graduation career, Salyer offered poetic clarity, and a quote by Angela Davis.
By centering the voices and experiences of Black, Brown, and Indigenous folks and other People of Color. By nurturing and valuing the web of intersecting identities students and colleagues bring to the table.
By recognizing my own privilege.
By being unwavering in my commitment to dismantle oppressive, white systems of power.
“Radical is simply grasping things by the root.” - Angela Davis
I want to grasp at those oppressive roots, relentlessly, for the rest of my life.