By Dani Moritz-Long
With so many of our students recently graduated, many of us have been reflecting on our academic experiences and the joy we felt when we celebrated our own college graduation(s). Vice President of Student Affairs Kim Sepich is among those who have been reminiscing — something she says is actually integral to the Valencia student experience.
“Our own experiences give us insight into what students may need from us now,” Kim explained. “Many times, we remember our really great experiences — the people who encouraged us, challenged us, helped us overcome a barrier, and we remember things that made our experiences more difficult. We want our students to have the same good experiences we did — a pay-it-forward kind of thing — but we don’t want students to experience the same challenges we did. In that way, our own experiences often help us answer questions about what is important in higher education so that we can shape future student experiences in the best ways possible.”
Recalling her days as an undergraduate, Kim says she fondly remembers the discovery process of finding her passion.
“I was involved in leading things like new student orientation. I was also a residence hall advisor, and I did some things like that on campus that I really loved and enjoyed,” she said. “Once I figured out that people get paid real money to do these things, I realized that this is what I needed to do. My major wasn’t where my heart was. I think that was the most pivotal moment for me — finding my niche and staying with it.”
Today, Kim helps students find their passion by developing student programs designed to help facilitate that discovery experience, so our students can find their passion and build a pathway to achieving their goals, both academically and professionally. “Don’t wait” is always Kim’s advice to students. Successful planning takes time, so whether students are preparing to enter the workforce or attend a four-year institution, Kim explains the importance of starting early.
This is also a lesson Kim learned during her undergraduate career, when she faced the inevitability of graduation.
“Graduating from college was very bittersweet for me,” she said. “I always knew I would graduate, yet I didn’t think about what would happen next. It was tough. I had to go home — go back with mom and dad, their rules, no friends, no life, no class to go to, nothing. This was a more difficult transition for me than actually going to college was.”
Fortunately for Kim, everything eventually worked out.
“Luckily, I had been intuitive enough before I left campus to ask around the student services department regarding that line of work and how I could make that happen for myself. They told me that I needed to go to graduate school, and they recommended Appalachian State University because they had the best student services program at the time. So, when I left the college, I thought I could either apply to Appalachian State or get a job. I tried the job route for a while but nothing really happened, and my heart wasn’t in it. So, I immediately started preparing for graduate school. I had to take the GRE and apply. I’d graduated in December and was in graduate school by May.”
After graduation, Kim commenced a highly successful career in education, which has included serving as the associate vice president in the North Carolina Community College system, the vice president for student affairs at Davidson County Community College in North Carolina and, now, as the vice president of student affairs at Valencia.
“I am fortunate to have had opportunities for learning and growth throughout my career,” Kim said. “In all the positions I’ve held and within all of the work I’ve done and will do, taking the time to learn in many ways and in many contexts has been key for me. Most promotions in my career have happened not because I pursued them; rather, I think they happened because of my genuine commitment to serving colleges and students in the best ways possible — and I could do this as a result of being a life-long learner.”