Staff Feature || [Aly] Saying Goodbye to Students United
written by | Aly Hagglund
Although these blogs are traditionally titled "Farewell Blogs" I do not consider this my exit from Students United. Our Executive Director, Carlee Diggins, coined the term "lifers" to describe people who are a part of the organization now and we expect to be a part of our organization for the rest of their lives. I hope when I leave Carlee adds my name to that list.
I first got involved with this organization when I was 19, and my involvement evolved from volunteer to intern to staff member. I have a laundry list of people to thank for getting me initially involved and another list for the people who decided that in the months leading up to an entire organizational rebrand that a young, 21 year-old was the right choice to hire on as the Director of Communications. You all know who you are and I am forever grateful for the trust you put in me!
My main joke with the students is to consider me their proud mom, as I am always taking photos, asking them to smile, bragging about them in writing, and asking them to document their lives. I am single handedly responsible for over two dozen Facebook profile pictures in my years at Students United [I won't call this my proudest accomplishment, but I'm always glad to help!].
Working with students has always been my favorite part of the job. The stories I have heard through my years have been inspiring, raw, impactful and sometimes heartbreaking. The students I have worked with have taught me more than I could have ever taught them. Many of today's students are no longer just dealing with midterms, finals and senior capstone projects, they are in a daily battle with food and housing insecurity, family struggles, and financial instability. So thank you to every board member and officer I have worked with who has taken the time to share their stories with me, to every campus committee member who put countless hours into pushing our student-driven agenda forward, and to every conference attendee who dedicated an entire weekend away from work and studying to share with our organization the issues that students face on their campuses.
To my work family [Carlee -- that is for you]. To the staff I work with now and to the co-workers I started with, I have learned a lot from all of you. Your dedication to students and improving their lives will never go unnoticed in my book. I would like to take a moment to specifically thank Elsbeth Howe for being such a phenomenal mentor when I started. Elsbeth's confidence in my ability, her encouragement in me pushing my skills, and her trust in allowing me to try new things that also opened room for error created an environment where I was able to grow significantly as a professional. To the current team I leave behind, I have no doubt in your ability to keep moving towards a more accessible and equitable higher education system for all Minnesotans where there are student-centered conversations for positive change.
I would like to exit with a few words of wisdom for the students. This organization is such a rare opportunity for students to be leaders and to make a difference for their fellow students. I know because I was a student involved in Students United. Then once becoming a staff member, I had the opportunity to work with amazing student leaders, each with their own strengths and goals. So students here is my piece of advice: Don't forget the power you have with this organization and leverage it to improve higher education for all Minnesotans. This type of organization is not common and you have the opportunity to lead real change for your fellow peers, if you choose to do so. So choose to do so.
My future endeavors are taking my to warmer weather. Although I am out of the state, I hoped I am added to the lifer list, as I was hooked at 19 and intend on being a supporter at 91.