Our Students

Students entering the CSAL program come with a variety of backgrounds and experiences. Some come directly out of an undergraduate degree program. Others have been working in higher education or other areas and they realized they lacked the foundational knowledge and the credential of the masters degree. Some students were actively involved in student affairs as undergraduates and decided early on to make it a career. Others came later to a realization that working with students in colleges and universities can provide a challenging and rewarding career.

Few undergraduate students have been exposed to student development theory and come to Grand Valley with majors as diverse as zoology, English, business, political science, religious studies, sociology or teacher preparation. There is no single "right" background to prepare a student for the CSAL program. The diversity of backgrounds helps make each cohort of students interesting, unique and dynamic.

Students entering the CSAL program earned undergraduate degrees from one hundred eleven different institutions in twenty-seven states and three other countries. To see the complete list click here.

Since the first cohort of students entered the CSAL program in the fall of 1995, three hundred seventy-five students have completed the M.Ed. and have taken positions in one hundred ninety-three different institutions and over ten organizations in thirty-six states.

Chad Novak

Chad Novak (he/him), CSAL '23

Program Coordinator with Residential Colleges, Vanderbilt University

What did you learn in the CSAL program?

The CSAL program focuses on developing higher education professionals in educational theory to practice, preparing me to become an effective practitioner outside the classroom. My academic coursework and graduate assistantship have allowed me to grow personally and professionally, and ready to enter the workforce. The program has been one of the best decisions and has made me a better person and educator through critically examining student development and the higher education landscape.

What advice would you give prospective CSAL students?

CSAL is a time to learn, grow, and make mistakes; do not be afraid to be curious and ask questions. Remind yourself that you are human and you are constantly learning and growing. So, take advantage of the resources the CSAL program and Grand Valley have to offer. Seek opportunities to grow as a person and professional through leadership opportunities, committee experiences, professional development workshops and conferences, and more. You are your biggest motivator, so be motivated to be the best version of yourself.

Megan Packer Headshot

Megan Packer (she/her), CSAL '22

University Relations Specialist

What did you learn in the CSAL program?

I learned a ton about working with college students, the development of students throughout their college careers, various DEI topics, and how to better serve different communities, as well as operationally how higher education institutions work.

What advice would you give prospective CSAL students?

Consider non-traditional paths! Student affairs have become so broad and it’s cool to see many of my peers stretching outside of traditional SA roles. Also, push for change within your Higher Ed institutions, it’s awesome to see how rapidly higher ed has changed in recent years compared to its traditionally slower pace. Young professionals are helping lead this!

Mary Wright Headshot

Mary Wright (she/her), CSAL '22

University Program Board Coordinator, James Madison University

What did you learn in the CSAL program?

I came into the CSAL program without a strong understanding of all of the different parts of higher education. Throughout the program, I was able to learn about so many facets of higher education through readings, projects, and hands-on experience during practicum experiences and my graduate assistantship. Probably the most impactful part of my time in the CSAL program was the chance to learn about myself, what I value, and how I lead, which has really helped me in my interactions with students as a new professional.

What advice would you give prospective CSAL students?

Take the time to explore different functional areas of higher education than the one that sparked your passion for student affairs. What you find may surprise you!

Caroline Murray Headshot

Caroline Murray (she/her), CSAL '21

Residence Director, Michigan State University

What did you learn in the CSAL program?

CSAL allowed me to have practical hands-on experiences through the assistantship and two practica opportunities it provided me. As a Graduate Assistant in the Office of Student Life, I was able to directly supervise students and apply the skills I was learning in the classroom to do so in an impactful way. The program taught me about the power of peer support and showed me how to navigate the landscape of student affairs. Additionally, I was able to take a closer look at the critical issues that our students are facing and develop ways to support them in defining and achieving their own success.

What advice would you give prospective CSAL students?

Take advantage of your hands-on learning opportunities to try new functional areas, especially some that you may not have experienced in undergrad. Additionally, empower yourself to be vulnerable and lean on your cohort. You will find them to be a remarkable source of support.


Lucas Treadwell, CSAL '18
Degree Auditor and Records Specialist at Illinois Institute of Technology

Since graduating from the CSAL program, I have transitioned from Student Affairs to Academic Affairs. This program has still been invaluable to me because it focuses both on student support outside of the classroom, but also the importance of faculty/staff collaboration, student academic support, inclusion and equity, and overall student administrative customer service. My assistantship as the Undergraduate Teacher Education Specialist in the College of Education (COE) helped prepare me for my current role working with Masters and Doctorate level students, which involves a lot of faculty partnerships. Within the COE I was responsible for planning admission and retention events with faculty and staff throughout the university. I was also responsible for working with the registrar's office to audit degree plans in preparation for each student's graduation. This has helped significantly in my current role, as I entered with two full years of auditing and records management already.


Meagan Mullen, CSAL '18
Community Coordinator at Pace University

CSAL was a very practical program; I was able to get experience from many diverse areas in Student Affairs. My assistantship, two practicums, classwork, and thesis cumulated into a well-rounded and enriching education. I felt prepared for my job search and was able to articulate my abilities to other institutions well because of the preparation provided by CSAL. Grand Valley itself was very supportive in my graduate experience and I will always have something positive to say about the institution and program.


Nicole Rombach, CSAL '17
Academic Advisor at University of Wisconsin-Madison, College of Letters & Science

My assistantship in CLAS prepared me extremely well for advising positions and I could not be more grateful for the opportunity to work with the advisors there. I also feel that my practicum experiences were highlights for me and have definitely informed my work in advising, as has my thesis. When interviewing, I was thankful for Jay’s personal philosophy assignment because I was often asked about my philosophy of advising. I think the cohort model was extremely beneficial, I liked that there was a balance between theory and practice, and I liked that we were given the option of a thesis or project. The faculty were also extremely supportive and I have been very appreciative of their mentorship throughout the program (and even now as an alum).


Genevieve Steffes, CSAL '17
Career Coach at Davenport University

Assistantship with ACES, practicum at GVSU Honors College Advising & MSU Career Services Network. Practical experiences are the true strength of this program, they not only help fund our education but also prepare us for our careers. Since we are able to choose all the experiences we pursue in the program, we are able to each craft a unique set of skills that help move us forward.


Sam Cho, CSAL '16
Academic Advisor at Purdue University, College of Engineering

The Student Affairs field is not just about ‘helping students’ – there’s far more to it! Acknowledging and understanding these nuances shaped me as a better professional in the academic advising field. Another benefit of the CSAL program is graduate assistantship. Learning theories are vital to becoming successful. However, having the real-life field experience helped me to answer the ‘how’ and ‘why’ portions learned from a classroom setting. I was motivated to gain more experience beyond my circumstance. Therefore, during my second year of the CSAL program, I was able to secure both the graduate assistantship at GVSU’s CLAS Academic Advising Center and a part-time position at GRCC’s Admissions Office.


Scott Burden, CSAL '16
Associate Director of the Pride Center for Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity at Lehigh University

CSAL prepared me so well for my role as the Associate Director of the Pride Center at Lehigh University. From my internship and practicum experiences to the classroom discussions, I would not be the professional that I am today if not for the CSAL program. Specifically, I appreciated the critical dialogue that we were able to have in the classroom and the application of theory and praxis during my graduate assistantship and internship/practicum experiences.

Jeffrey Keson

Jeffrey Keson '15
Assistant Director of Student Recruitment and Retention at Michigan State University

The reason that Grand Valley State University's CSAL program is the perfect fit for me can be summed up in two words: challenge and support. Like so many others who enter the field of higher education, I had an outstanding undergraduate experience and was heavily involved in student organizations and Greek life. After I had been working in the “real world” (whatever that is) for a few year, I realized that I missed the challenges of working on a college campus. After speaking about my dilemma with my mentor and advisor, she suggested I look into the student affairs program at GVSU. When I applied and had interviews, what stood out the most was this idea of being heavily student centered. For me, working with students is what makes my career so enjoyable. From the development of leadership skills to academic advising, students always end up challenging me and teaching me new things along the way. As a graduate assistant, I have had the experience of working with talented and resourceful peers and supervisors who constantly push me to do better, to learn new things, and to keep thinking of new solutions to old problems. It all comes back to challenge and support.


Laura Murnen '15
Assistant Director of Admissions at the University of Cincinnati

After visiting Grand Valley State University, I felt an immediate connection to the program. The individuals I met during visitation days made me believe in the success of College Student Affairs Program by their energy and passion for student affairs.  Coming from out-of-state I appreciated the proximity to downtown Grand Rapids as well as the opportunity to study at two campuses.  The best part of CSAL program would be the use of the cohort model. This provides the CSAL graduate student a support system of their peers that can share in similar experiences and the opportunity to develop lasting friendships during their two years in the program. Not only that but time spent in class helps develop your critical thinking abilities, while your assistantship provides you with practical work experience. The CSAL program allows individuals to make the most of their experience by giving them the power to tailor their master's degree to fit their personal goals. They do this by providing the student with a wide array of assistantship and practicum options, thought provoking courses, study abroad trips, and ample amount of leadership opportunities. I know that upon graduation I will have gained the necessary skills and experience to take on the professional world.


Jazzmin Weathers '14
Residence Director at UCLA

I was very intentional about choosing my graduate school. Coming from a Big Ten school and being well aware that I wanted to have a career in student affairs, I wanted to choose a school that was different from my undergraduate institution in as many ways possible. My old supervisor actually told me about the College Student Affairs Leadership program and I started contacting Grand Valley State University my junior year.  The best thing about the CSAL program is the great responsibilities and professional experiences it has afforded me. I feared that working on staff as a graduate student would cause me to be treated differently than the professionals I work with. Here at Grand Valley, I am treated equally as a professional. CSAL/GVSU has also afforded me the chance to have my research published. I never thought I would ever be published for anything, especially research! The main thing that separates the CSAL program apart from others is the assistantship experience. We get so much real life experience through our assistantships that coincide with the lessons we are learning in class. It’s the perfect combination! 


Bianca Ortiz '14
Residence Dean at Stanford University

I am originally from Los Angeles, CA and I chose Grand Valley State University to gain a completely different experience that is way outside of my comfort zone, knowing it would allow me to develop as a person, student, and professional.  I knew the moment I arrived on campus for interview days that this was the right fit for me. I felt the sense of community with the staff and students, which was so welcoming.  I chose the College Student Affairs Leadership program for the curriculum, practicum opportunities and my assistantship at the Women’s Center.  The CSAL program prepares you as a Student Affairs professional in every sense.  As a graduate student, you have the opportunity to complete two practicums supplementing your academic courses and assistantship.  Through this program I had the opportunity to work with the Michigan GEAR Up program, which provides high school students the skills necessary to be a graduate from an institution of higher education.  During the summer I had the opportunity to work for Cornell University as a Resident Director for their Pre-Freshman Summer Program.  Alongside the practicum opportunities, the program allows you to involve yourself in any number of professional development opportunities available throughout the opportunity.  I have had the opportunity to develop and implement initiatives with full autonomy and support from my supervisors and other student affairs practitioners, such as GVSU mentoring program for students of color.  I have had an amazing experience through this program because not only have I learned how to develop as a student affairs professional, but the work I have been able to accomplish has been meaningful and satisfying.  I have worked alongside the most supportive, inspiring and innovative people at GVSU.  This program has empowered me in every sense and has given me the tools needed to continue on my path in higher education. 

Page last modified June 20, 2023