There’s not a week I look forward to in my job more than STEP Program, a summer bridge program for incoming first-year, first-generation, and under-represented students at UCSB. I have served as a transitional facilitator for the last four years, and it’s one of the most fulfilling personal/professional experiences I have ever done in my career. STEP Program has a special place in my life. I was a student in the program in 1991, and I was also a Resident Assistant in 1994. I met some of my life-long friends through this program and became friends with some students who have also considered me my mentor.

A few years ago, this program was for two weeks, and unfortunately, due to budget cuts, the program was reduced to one week. Even so, it is remarkable how much transformation happens with the students. I enjoy watching their confidence grow and their connections with other students within this short week. It’s a testament to how well the program is designed and the dedication of the staff and volunteers.

STEP Program facilitation is not one of my responsibilities as an IT Director. My job description does not mention working with students in a classroom setting, nor does working with first-generation students. But my interaction with the students through my role as a facilitator drives my purpose. It reminds me of why my job matters and who I work for. I don’t work for my supervisors; I work for students. In the end, while the systems I help develop with my technical teams enable our business staff and departments to be able to serve the personal development and learning of thousands of students at a mass scale, I would like to believe the personal interactions our faculty, staff, and the relationships our students develop with their peer’s matter as much towards a fulfilling college career.

When I read the students’ reflections of their STEP experience at the end of the program, I get the sense of how much they value the program and how much more confident and comfortable they are with their transition into UCSB. Personally, the STEP program provides me with the opportunity to build connections with the students. Even if most of them will never contact me again, I consider it a privilege and honor to be a part of their introduction to their new lives at UCSB. My one-week STEP experience is enough to nourish my soul and provide me with motivation and a sense of purpose for the rest of the year.