Natasha J. Long’s career path unexpectedly began on the softball field. When she was a student at Marshall University, she would often act as an adviser to her softball teammates, telling them what courses they needed to take for the semester. “It was something I was doing in undergrad but just didn’t know it. But then in post grad, in between undergrad and graduate school, I was giving softball lessons and I felt myself counseling parents and students more than I was instructing them about softball,” she said. This, paired with her liking the flexibility of education, made her realize that she was meant for this field. “I just like working with youth. I really enjoyed my undergraduate experience at Marshall and thought about creating similar experiences for students by pursuing higher education rather than K-12,” she said.
Currently Long is the Richard T. Robertson School of Media and Culture’s coordinator of student services, where she serves as the principal administrator for advising and student services and oversees more than 850 majors and minors. She has been working in mass communications for 14 years. “[My job] is helping students navigate policies, processes and everyday challenges that they're facing. But it's, you know, juggling work and academics. People often ask me, ‘What is it that you do for a living?’ and I say, ‘I'm a problem solver,’’' she said. Long also collaborates to create schedules for students and works as an enrollment manager for the Robertson School.
Long’s relationship with VCU actually started much earlier than her time with the Robertson School. In fact, Long started at VCU as a graduate student seeking her master’s in counselor education thinking she would go into K-12 school counseling. However, a different opportunity fell in her lap when one of her graduate professors let her know of a graduate assistant position in student athlete advising due to her history as a student athlete. She would go on to fill that position for three years before she developed a new advising program at Longwood University. “A more structured academic support program was mandated as part of the move from DII to DI by the NCAA. I was there for about a year but I really missed VCU and the student population,” she said. She quickly found her way back to VCU and started at the Robertson School.
Long is always looking for ways to connect with her students beyond their academic interests. “I think one of the things that connects me to students is my interest in pop culture, and one of those things is staying abreast on the latest popular shows,” she said. “That opens the door to some fun bonding with students and we gain a bit more common ground that way. I think if you can get that personal touch to the students that you're meeting, you're gonna hopefully give them fond memories to reflect upon.”