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My Committee

I call you colleague, I call you mentor, I call you friend. I find myself lucky to call you those words. 

Thank you, for being on my committee. Please continue scrolling to my letter to you.


Dr. Paige Gardner

SDA Co-Program Director,

Seattle University

Dear Committee Members,

Thank you for your continuous support during my time in the Student Development Administration (SDA) program. As I am approaching the end of this chapter for me, I could not help but to think of all the people, including you, that place a piece of faith and trust in me, as I discern through who I am as a professional in this field, my calling in life, and my personal growth and identities. Beyond the Master’s degree, I continue to grow my firm belief and practices in advocating for the historically and currently marginalized student population through the lens of diversity, equity, and inclusion. From an aspiring practitioner, my SDA journey has made me a practitioner backed by values, research, and courage to challenge the status quo of this historically exclusive field.  


My coursework in leadership and governance, SDAD 5760, supported me in the exploration of my values, beliefs, and histories. Only seeing higher education institutions from a single perspective prior to the class, Dr. Studivant showed me the complex administrative dynamics, management and operational models, and how my roles within an institution play into it. More importantly, Dr. Studivant helped me to understand how my values and upbringings can help me to shape the mission and vision of an institution as an authentic and effective leader. This class prepared me for my internship, where I exhibited leadership in various types of institutions and environments, and put student development theories into real life as a practitioner.


Thanks to my graduate assistantship and internships, I have learnt what I excel at, what I still lack and can improve on, and what I am currently missing in my practice. I challenged my ethics and practiced event planning skills in working in fundraising as my graduate assistantship. I further practiced my ability in balancing various priorities while approaching a bigger mission not only in this role, but also my role as the INF Chair. I have learnt the complexity of navigating within legislations, policies, and practices within my anti-hazing internship with the health and wellness promotion office. Last but not least, my work as the orientation coordinator at Seattle Pacific University has taught me on adapting practices to specific environments of various institution types.


Magis, the Jesuit term for more, refers to the search of the greater good. And that is what the SDA program has taught me. While student affairs, slowly, has made tremendous process in the past decades, there is so much more to be done. My work and calling, thanks to all the current and past practitioners, has been made so much clearer: actively working towards the dismantling of barriers set up by the historical context and practices so that all students can achieve their sense of success in their unique college journey. I see the concept of Magis pushing me through the continuous growth and change of my practices in the field. Thank you again, for being a crucial part of my journey. 

With gratitude,

Aaron Zhao | 趙致遠

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