Sometimes taking a chance leads to even more than you originally expected.
That was the case for Sydney E. Robinson ’19, the Diversity and Inclusion Program Manager for the CSB and SJU Multicultural Center, who was recently informed she has been appointed the Minnesota State Coordinator in Region IV-E of the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA).
The position is part of the region’s advisory board and the appointment runs from July of this year through July of 2025.
The news was both thrilling and surprising as Robinson had originally applied for the graduate student and new professionals liaison role. But the region leadership felt she was qualified for an even more responsibility.
“Dr. Lamar (Hylton), who is the incoming regional director, called me and said that they thought my skillset could be elevated to a different position,” said Robinson, a Las Vegas native who served as Vice President of the CSB Student Senate and in other leadership roles as CSB student, then returned a year ago to take over her current position in which she works directly with programs and organizations focused on women’s leadership, peer-to-peer mentoring and Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Justice (DEIJ) initiatives.
“So I was offered the Minnesota Coordinator role within our region. The biggest part of that role is mentoring and getting people connected to NASPA as a resource. I’ve benefitted so greatly by attending conferences and staying up to date with the Knowledge Communities that I felt obligated to give back in the same way. I thank my supervisors Vice Provost (Mary) Geller and Malik Stewart (Director of Multicultural Student Services) for emphasizing this for me.”
It helps that Robinson knows the organization and its benefits well. Last year, she was selected for a spot in the NASPA (National Association of Student Personnel Administrators) Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education Now Professionals 2022 Cohort, which recognizes exceptional contributions from new professionals and graduate students within the organization.
And just recently, she was chosen to attend the organization’s Alice Manicur Symposium, held Jan. 25-28 in Portland, Oregon. The symposium is designed for student affair professionals who identify as women or outside the gender binary, and who are at the middle management level and considering moving into a vice presidential or more senior role.
“I kind of applied on a whim because I’m technically not mid-level and I haven’t completed my master’s degree just yet,” said Robinson, who is in her final semester before completing a Master’s degree in higher education administration at St. Cloud State University.
“But it’s specifically meant to develop women and people outside the gender binary to be prepared to take on those kinds of roles. I was able to be in a mentoring group. We had about 15 people with our faculty advisor. We got to go through different sessions on topics like taking up space, leading as a whole leader and how to advocate for women, femmes and nonbinary people. It was really enriching as a professional development experience.”
Robinson said she returned to CSB and SJU even more passionate about her work.
“I think it left me with a lot of confidence as a Black woman taking up space and working in these kinds of predominately male environments,” she said. “It really reinvigorated my love for this. It reminded me how to be a value-based leader and about making decisions based on your values. So it was a really affirming experience. It showed me I’m doing the right thing, at the right time, in the right place.”
“I was surrounded by a lot of women who were either in their doctoral dissertation process or already had their doctorate. I was the youngest by far - and having not completed my master’s degree - so many of them were encouraging me to get my doctorate and stay connected with them. So it was really nice to be in community with other women of color and being uplifted by Black women specifically.”
Those are the kind of experiences Robinson hopes to facilitate for others in her new role as Minnesota State Coordinator.
“The experiences I’ve had (through NASPA) are directly related to why I’ve been successful in my role here, and why I feel like I’ve been able to skill manage students and employees,” she said. “I’ve had those enriching things to help me. And I want to be able to share that magic with other people.
“Being able to represent the state of Minnesota as a non-Minnesotan is really cool too because I visually look different, and I think people need to see people who look like them in power,” she continued. “Or in positions of … not necessarily the decision maker, but the day-to-day person who’s there to help you and support you. That’s what I came back for.”