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Y UCF: Yes, U Can Frame

(Image courtesy of UCF Tandem Vault. Nick Leyva took the image.)

The University of Central Florida (UCF) is one of the largest schools in the nation. With over 60,000 undergraduates, you might think the only place you would meet a person with a title must be in a 1970s brutalist beige building. But I can tell you that is not always the case. I met Dr. Adrienne Frame (AFrame) when she was the Associate Vice President and Dean of Students at a Wawa gas station. I was filling up my Ford Escape, and my friend Scott told me, I think I know her. " I said, "Whoever she is, I like her convertible. " He responded, "Oh my god, it's Aframe. " I said, "What is an Aframe? " He introduced me to her as we both filled up our cars. He introduced me not as a student leader nor the matchmaker who got him and his now ex-girlfriend together but as the girl who toured off-campus greek housing with a bunch of random guys.

(Image courtesy of UCF Tandem Vault. Austin S. Warren took the image.)

Fast forward almost five years; the world has changed. When I was in school, half of the student population was the latter half of Millenials, and the other half was early Gen Z. Today, Gen Zs are the majority of the student population. They are more aware of their surroundings and the consequences of their actions. The once impenetrable college bubble does not protect students from real-world anxieties in a post-pandemic environment. AFrame and other higher education professionals have to wear multiple hats, acting as student advocates, health and well-being specialists, and academic advisors to build the next generation of leaders.

(Image courtesy of UCF Tandem Vault. The image was taken by Nick Leyva.)

Since that gas station meet-up, I have had the honor and luck of having AFrame in my life. I think about how she needs to address the problems of this brave new world. I recently talked with the now Vice President in the UCF’s new division of Student Success and Well-Being to learn her perspective on college and young adulthood.

(Image courtesy of AFrame)

1. How do you define young adulthood?

Young adulthood begins when someone is 17 and ends by the time that person is 30. When a person is a child, school and after-school activities provide various learning opportunities through sports, the arts, etc. By age 17, the list of activities begins to shrink as that person starts to specialize in a few areas. Additionally, seventeen-year-olds begin to think about the next step after high school. Some may choose to finish high school or get a GED and go straight to work in a job throughout their lives. Others start to ponder what gives them energy vs. depletes them. For the first time in their lives, these students clarify what they want life to look like after high school and how they want to get there. Does that person want to attend post-secondary education, join the military, work or pursue some other option? Does that seventeen-year-old have obligations and people that rely on them?

(Image courtesy of UCF Tandem Vault. The image was taken by Lauren Schoepfer.)

I focus on the students who want to continue their education by attending college. When first-years enter their first semester, students have definite ideas of what they want to accomplish as they dream of life after graduation and a future that may include becoming lawyers, doctors, or engineers. When a pre-med major begins taking Chemistry I or a business major begins taking Introduction to Financial Accounting and finds that they are struggling with the coursework and material so much that they do not pass, the student may need to reevaluate their options. Some will choose to take the course again in the hopes of a better outcome, only to find that they fail again. So they ponder, what am I going to do, and what's my purpose?

(Image courtesy of UCF Tandem Vault. The image was taken by Nick Leyva.)

It is at that point of struggle, either before the second try at the course or not, that I pull students aside and ask, "What are we going to do now? " I try to expand their minds to other opportunities in the field of their dreams. I tell them they can still work in healthcare, law, or STEM while having a liberal arts or hospitality background. I also ask them, "Why are they banging their heads on a wall trying to pass a course over and over again when there is an open door nearby that may play more to their strengths? " Maybe that door leads the student in a completely different direction than the one they envision for themselves, but that's the lesson of adulthood – to remain flexible in planning and be prepared to pivot when necessary.

(Image courtesy of UCF Tandem Vault. The image was taken by Nick Leyva.)

Young adulthood is the time in a person's life when they learn how to set, address and modify the course of their life. - Adrienne Frame

2. Why are the college years such a formative time?

Most people want college to be a transformational experience. The purpose of college is for a student to get a degree and emerge as a changed person as a result of their post-secondary educational experience. To get a degree, that person must attend class and maintain a certain grade point average. If a person also takes time to not only go to class but also becomes involved in the life fabric of the institution, they learn how opportunities beget more opportunities.

(Image courtesy of UCF Tandem Vault. The image was taken by Nick Leyva.)

College can be very problematic if people do not permit themselves to try things – new things. If a person just goes to class and then goes home, that person will have a transactional educational experience. Those students do not recognize how they can apply the lessons they learn in the classroom to their lives as they fail to build relationships with peers, professors, or faculty. A person only develops when they actively seek knowledge through academic, professional, and personal experiences through engagement in the broad-based learning environments available both inside and outside of the classroom.

(Image courtesy of UCF Tandem Vault. The image was taken by Nick Leyva.)

3. What is your mission and vision, and how do you incorporate that into your work?

I didn't love my college experience. While I was academically successful, I did not find a sense of community until I went to Harvard University in my junior year as a participant in the Visiting Undergraduate Program. The Visiting Undergraduate Program allows students to go to Harvard for a semester or a year. When I went to Harvard, I tried everything. I was a newscaster with WHRB – Harvard's student-run radio station, and rowed with the Dudley house club crew team. It was a fantastic year where I grew as a person and a leader. When I do my work, I want to give students the skills and confidence to pursue whatever they want to dream of doing with their lives.

(Image courtesy of Harvard University. The image was taken by Scott Eisen.)

4. For recent graduates and people in their 20s, how can they continue to evolve when they leave college?

A person needs to recognize that they created a community in college, and those communities do not necessarily disappear after graduation. They can reconnect with mentors from college who may still be genuinely interested in the perpetuation of their success. During these catch-up calls, the mentor can act as a sounding board or a nonjudgmental ear.

(Image courtesy of UCF Tandem Vault. The image was taken by Nick Leyva.)

The biggest asset a person can have is resilience. If someone does not like their life, they can change it – right here, right now. People can give themselves new opportunities to succeed by attending art classes, getting a dog, or stepping out to try something new they have always wanted to do. In those moments, one can meet new people and, in turn, new transformational communities for themselves based on similar interests, desires, likes, and supports.

(Image courtesy of UCF Tandem Vault. The image was taken by Nick Leyva.)


Me on my first day of graduate school

Rachel Huss

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