Tuesday, 14 February 2017

USP Program Assistants: a closer look

The Uganda Studies Program has an amazing cross-cultural staff comprised of individuals with varying skills and knowledge. Each staff member plays a big role in having the program move along smoothly. One of the positions in USP that is continuously changing is the role of the Program Assistant – known at USP as “PAs.” Each year USP hires two American PAs beginning in the fall and one Ugandan PA beginning in January. The role of the USP PA is always dynamic and never boring! Here are some reflections from those who have filled this important role at USP:

Benji (Current Ugandan PA)
“Being a PA has shown me the importance of being there for someone in the good times, vulnerable times, and sick times. It is a priceless gift that you could offer whereby you don’t expect anything in return. Being a PA teaches someone the value of selflessness.”

Favorite parts of the job

  • Getting to know students and staff and getting to learn more about different cultures.
Current PAs: Becca, Benji, Talitha

Talitha (Current American PA)
“Being a PA has challenged me to become a more adaptable person because the job has so many parts to it. I have learned a lot about myself through the process and have grown in my knowledge of working cross-culturally. Having a relational job can be so fulfilling and I have learned a lot about cultural humility and being open to new experiences from the students who have come through the program. Getting to be involved in social work classes and activities has also grown me professionally. The PA position is very broad, involved, and holistic.”

Favorite parts of the job:
  • Having meaningful conversations with students
  • Getting to interact with a diverse group of people

Current and past PAs get together in Kampala, Uganda
From Left: Andi, Becca, Jean, Talitha

Innocent (Current USP Admin Assistant and former Ugandan PA 2013)  
 “The experience I had as a PA is one I wouldn’t have had anywhere else. It was a needed experience to be able to transition into any other future job. As a PA I got a little bit of everything that I couldn’t get in a specific specialized job title. The work was humbling and I realized how the attitude is what counts in any job. You can do anything with a great attitude. The job had its own challenges, but there is a lot to learn and the experience outweighed the challenges. I grew greatly in relating cross-culturally and I made great memories that led to great friendships.”

Favorite parts of the job:

  •  The teamwork involved in working with people cross-culturally.
  • Getting to learn about your own culture while learning about theirs.
  • Being a part of the classes with students.

Current PAs, Talitha and Becca, along with 2013 PA, Innocent celebrating Becca's Birthday 

So what does a USP PA Do??
Because the PA position is so broad, it can be difficult to define exactly what a PA does. The primary role of a PA is to care for our USP students. This can take on many forms, but often means being available, caring for sick students and having intentional conversations. PAs live on campus in the same dorms as students and join them for meals in the campus dining hall. PAs prepare meals and restock med kits for when we are traveling and help coordinate USP trips as well as class field trips. PAs can often be found sitting in and contributing to classes as well as planning USP events. They help out in the office by sitting at the front desk, running errands when office supplies are low, and assist staff members in various projects. Some of the behind-the-scenes activities of the PAs include attending staff meetings, keeping up with USP social media, and setting up the classroom for lecturers. USP staff are adaptable and share many responsibilities -- PAs are no exception as they help out where they can to share the load of running an exciting, cross-cultural program.

Preparing sack lunches for a road trip

Celebrating a student birthday
Getting med kits stocked for Rural Homestays

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