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WWU / Fairhaven College of Interdiscipinary Studies

Quote: The most important thing I got out of the program was a historical background and context to the many cultures that I will be interacting with on a daily basis, which allows for me to have a deeper and more meaningful connection to any given students’ success.  - Victoria Retasket

Victoria Retasket

Graduate Student in WWU’s Student Affairs Administration program

Tell us about your experience as an American Cultural Studies (and Fairhaven College if applicable) student within Western Washington University.

I am very grateful for my experience within the American Cultural Studies major and department at WWU. I’ve always been passionate about sharing my own culture and heritage with anyone who has been willing to listen, and so I found a natural fit in hearing others’ stories and understanding histories.


What made you decide to concentrate on American Cultural Studies?

I had originally planned to be an Elementary Education minor in Woodring’s College of Education, but it took a lot of GUR’s and soul-searching to realize that my ultimate goal was to provide service to Native American students in any way possible.


How did you choose your career/field?

This led me to my current pursuit of higher education administration, and meshed well with my interest in creating a more just system for underrepresented and unrepresented students in higher education. My passion and dream would be to work closely with new and continuing Native American students on any campus in to increase the number of undergraduate and graduate degrees within the population. I believe that education is a gateway to success and creates opportunities otherwise unavailable or hidden for Native American people.


What has your path since ACS looked like?

Since my graduation from ACS/WWU, I have been a graduate student in the Student Affairs Administration program at WWU. I’m currently beginning my second year of studies which includes a nine month internship program and part time job in the Ethnic Student Center as the graduate assistant. I plan to graduate from this program in August of 2011 and pursue a career in higher education; supporting students of color develop as holistic individuals in any way possible.


How did ACS influence that path?

During my first year in the program, I was the graduate in New Student Services/Family Outreach and learned valuable lessons about how impactful orientation programs are in the career of students attending WWU, and was able to contribute some of my knowledge gained about underrepresented students in order to make their experiences more meaningful and valuable. Because of my love for hearing people’s stories, I feel that a career in Student Affairs will be very appropriate. I will be able to help the students who need and want help and support.


What kind of training, licenses, and education were required?

There is no specific training or certification required for my career field, but having a Master’s degree in Student Affairs is common. Much of my current education has been significantly impacted by my experience in the ACS program, because often the needs and barriers of students of colors are often taken into consideration when providing services.


What kinds of prior experiences were essential?

Some of my experiences and learning in the classroom during my major classes were essential to shaping which career I chose and contributing to my passion for removing barrios for students of color to higher education institutions


Reflecting on your time as a student, what was the best/most important/influential part of your experience?

One of the most influential parts of my experience as an ACS major was in a Fairhaven class entitled “Cultural Creation of Identity.” In this class, we wrote about, discussed, and explored our own identities and how that impacted the world around us and us as social creatures. It was extremely eye-opening, and contributed to my pride of my own culture and heritage while understanding and respecting identities extremely different from my own. The most important thing I got out of the program was a historical background and context to the many cultures that I will be interacting with on a daily basis, which allows for me to have a deeper and more meaningful connection to any given students’ success.

I’ve had many more meaningful experiences throughout the program, though this one stands out to me as the turning point in my career path.


What advice would you give to entering or current students?

I would want incoming students to be brave, explore the new and unfamiliar territory of different cultures, and not to be afraid of asking questions about something that peaks their curiosity and interest. It was in this program that I found my career choice, and without taking classes with such intellectual and deeply knowledgeable faculty and classmates, I wouldn’t have had the strength to grow into new arenas of experience. Try new things, attend events, and read lots of books, articles, and journals. I feel that the best way to stay current with issues emerging today is to have a good working history and arsenal of knowledge, and add to it every day as a lifelong learner who is capable of making meaningful connections.


Please describe a typical day for you.

A typical day for me usually consists of work hours, school hours, and most likely family time. I have a small family of my own, and am part of a much larger cultural family that means the world to me.

What does the future hold for you?

I hope the future holds for me great things for me and my family. My ultimate goal is to increase the quality of life for Native American and First Nations people through education. I hope that I am able to create opportunities for learning and development in and out of the classroom that assist students in moving toward being more confident and knowledgeable in many ways. I hope to pursue my doctorate in educational leadership, and stay in the Pacific Northwest. I plan to continue being highly engaged in my pow-wow lifestyle, and passing on those traditions to my daughter.


American Cultural Studies

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