Archive for August, 2008

Location, location, location

Posted on August 20, 2008. Filed under: Uncategorized |

Location: One of the benefits to having lived so many different places is knowing first-hand that there are certain regions/states where I am not interested in residing. While there is a small part of me that still feels adventurous and willing to go anywhere, which I think stems from my time in AmeriCorps, there is a larger part of me that knows it is no longer in my best interest to ignore my location preferences. On the personal side, I’m getting tired of moving and constantly having to rebuild my community. I need to be in a location where I can engage in the activities that keep me grounded and sane. Without these opportunities I will not be able to serve students and my university as a whole wholeheartedly. On a professional side, I realize that in order for me to do the best job possible I need to be invested in the institution I work for and able to stay long enough to create positive changes. At this point in my life, I am decidedly pulled towards searching for jobs in the western United States. In particular I see my job search focusing primarily on Colorado (where the majority of my family lives) as well as Arizona, Oregon, Washington, and Idaho. All of these states offer numerous opportunities for me to engage in outdoor pursuits as well as stay relatively close to family and friends.

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Should 18 be the new 21?

Posted on August 19, 2008. Filed under: Uncategorized |

I feel the need to add my two cents to the recent news that a number of college presidents from prominent colleges have advocated for law makers to consider lowering the drinking age to 18. To view the full story please go to

From my point of view this news deserves to be looked at from a number of different angles. As a conduct officer who deals primarily with cases of underage drinking, I see first-hand the harm that alcohol and specifically binge drinking has on students. I am a witness to the dangerous and detrimental things that students do when they are intoxicated and am often on the listening end of conversations that begin with “I didn’t plan to do that, but once I had that extra drink, I wasn’t thinking”. My concern when these students come in, is not making them swear off drinking, but making them realize that excessive drinking prevents them from making smart decisions and acting in a manner that they can be proud of. My next concern is ensuring that students understand and utilize campus resources that can educate them on smart drinking behaviors (i.e. drinking in moderation/knowing their limits, drinking in the company of trusted friends, having a D.D., eating before and during alcohol consumption, etc.). My biggest argument against lowering the drinking age is that it doesn’t solve the root problem of alcohol abuse among college students; it doesn’t address the lack of education that students get surrounding alcohol consumption. If college presidents are truly interested in cutting down on the number of fatalities, injuries and sexual assaults connected to drinking than perhaps they should be lobbying congress for funds to support mandatory alcohol education in high schools and increased funding to support efforts by college health centers to promote healthy drinking behaviors.

One of the arguments mentioned by supporters of the presidents’ initiative is that the maturity of an 18 year old is not much different than the maturity of a 21 year old. I have to disagree, particularly when viewed from a high education perspective. I find it hard to believe that college presidents and other administrators would be pleased to find their freshman and junior class having the same level of maturity and decision making capability. More and more colleges are developing missions to promote social responsibility, wellness, and overall personal growth, as such they should be hesitant to equate a freshman’s concept of these things with an upperclassman’s. Doing so simply devalues higher education.

Lastly, I would like to throw in my personal opinion on one the most embattled cries for lowering the drinking age: the concept that 18 year olds can vote and join the military and therefore should be allowed to drink. My question is whether these things are intrinsically connected or just thrown together to garner support for a weak cause. My initial thought would be that the connection lies in the level of maturity necessary to drink responsibly, to serve in the military, and to cast an educated vote. However I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that the reason that 18 year olds can serve their country is because an army of old, yet mature men and women is unrealistic. It takes youngsters with a sense of invincibility and a craving fom adventure/glory to enlist in the military-not maturity. As for being able to vote, well 18 year olds have only had the right since 1971 and the change had nothing to do with science proving that 18 year olds were more mature than had once been thought. It had to do with the heat that legislators were under because 18 year olds were getting drafted into the Vietnam War and they couldn’t even vote for the president who was sending them there.  In other words, voting and military service, much like legal alcohol consumption, are not contingent on maturity, instead they are tied to different social, political, and cultural issues and trends. This should make college presidents as well as other advocates of lowering the drinking age think twice before seeing them as intrinsically connected.

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My struggles with self-advocacy

Posted on August 8, 2008. Filed under: NODA Journal |

It’s time to reflect on my NODA internship as a whole and I’m hesitant to do so. I’m afraid because reflecting on this experience is going to mean admitting certain personal failures on my part; certain inabilities to stand up for myself and my needs. The fact that I’m even writing this brings tears to my eyes, but it needs to be out there; it needs to be digested. My intent in writing about this is not to put blame on others for my failures or inabilities, it is only to reflect upon them and how I will seek to better my experiences in the future.

I came into this experience with a learning contract that I shared with my supervisor before I arrived. It outlined the experiences I was hoping to have and focused on the competencies I was looking to gain, as outlined by my graduate school program. For those who are interested the learning contract is posted under my NODA Internship section. I think the first place where I went wrong was not sitting down with my supervisor(s) at the very beginning of the summer and having an honest conversation with them about which experience/competencies I could logically meet and which ones were less likely to happen. Perhaps a happy medium could have been reached early on instead of me continuing to think that it was all possible. I’m quite sure that my supervisors would not have wanted to tell me that certain items were off the table, but had I known this early on it would have been easier to accept. Plus I would have understood that it had nothing to do with my competence and more to do with their policies and procedures.

As I look back at my learning contract the thing that strikes me the most is that a great deal of the experiences I was looking for did not focus around the day-to-day elements of orientation and advising, but more on the theories, trends and issues that influence orientation and first-year programs. Based on this fact, what I really needed and didn’t advocate for enough was one-on-one time to just reflect and discuss the ins and outs of orientation/advising programming with my supervisors. The natural question that arises from this realization is “Why didn’t I advocate for these meetings?”. Well, I can think of a number of reasons, for one thing I got wrapped up in the chaos of the season. It was hard enough to keep up with the grueling orientation day schedules and constant busy work that was asked of me on non-session days. I guess the thought of trying to schedule yet another meeting seemed impossible at times, let alone logically improbable. In addition, both of my bosses used the majority of their non-session day to attend multiple staff meetings, face time on these days was at a premium and I didn’t feel comfortable asking for much of their time. As I write this I am once again faced with the fact that I could have asked, I could have demanded more time. Perhaps I wouldn’t have gotten any of it, but at least I wouldn’t be sitting here wondering.

I wonder if I would have reacted differently if I had been staying in the same position for more than two and a half months. If I didn’t know that I was headed back to an assistantship and an university where I am given large amounts of responsibility would I have been more adamant about my needs? What if I didn’t feel like I still had some time to gain the competencies I couldn’t get here? I’m sure that part of my hesitation to ask for more face time is due to my stubborn independence. I don’t want to come across as someone who needs to have their hand held through everything, who needs to analyze everything down to the smallest detail. At the same time I need to recognize that I cannot learn all I need to learn on my own and that part of being a professional is recognizing the things that you can’t do on your own and asking for help. I hope to take this lesson to heart in the future.

At this point in the summer I am certain that I can’t achieve all the goals I had for my internship, but I can try and make it the best situation it can be. I have already started to set up meetings with various other professionals on campus to get a more thorough understanding of the programs and services available at SJSU. Tomorrow I will schedule some final reflection time with my various supervisors and at that time I will be presenting them with an overview of my job responsibilities this year, along with my learning contract and suggestions for improvements. I may have not been able to have the ideal experience, but I can work to ensure that the next NODA intern will have a better experience due to my suggestions.

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NODA Internship Learning Contract

Posted on August 8, 2008. Filed under: NODA Internship |

Learning Contract for NODA Internship 08′ at San Jose State University

Department: Student Involvement, Orientation and Transition (OAT) and Academic Advising and Retention Services

The experiences I hope to have and competencies I hope to gain during this internship include:

1. Knowledge of Higher Education and Student Affairs

  • a. Goals, trends and key issues related to the future of the student affairs profession (in particular those of orientation, first-year programs and retention)

2. Student Development in Higher Education

  • a. Transitional issues faced by students before their tenure at San Jose State
  • b. How the OAT team along with Academic Advising address the needs of a diverse student body including, but not limited to age, socioeconomic status, gender, gender identity, race and ethnicity, language, nationality, religion or spirituality, sexual orientation, ability and preparedness
  • c. How specific student development theories are incorporated into OAT and advising procedures

3. Leadership

  • a. Fiscal resource and budget development
  • b. Supervising and evaluating orientation leader performance
  • c. Help plan and facilitate staff training and meetings
  • d. Legal issues critical in guiding and influencing practice
  • e. Campus climate issues and how they affect OAT programming

4. Multicultural Awareness

  • a. Ways in which OAT challenges and supports individuals and groups (orientation leaders and first-year students) to maximize multicultural sensitivity.

5. Program Planning

  • a. Oversee implementation of all advising and registration aspects of Orientation
  • b. Assist in preparation for Transfer Information Program
  • c. Market program appropriately
  • d. Evaluate the effectiveness of the program

6. Individual, Group, and Organization Communication

  • a. Positively manage, develop and engage in working relationships with faculty , staff, and students across functional and institutional boundaries
  • b. Participate in working alliances and teams with a wide ranger of people across cultural boundaries
  • c. Serve as advocate, counselor, and/or advisor to students and student groups
  • d. Manage and/or mediate conflict, crisis, or problematic circumstances

*Progress on meeting these goals and competencies will be recorded in a weekly journal and reflected upon with Emily every other week.

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Better late than never, right?

Posted on August 5, 2008. Filed under: NODA Internship |

Should students who come to later orientation sessions be penalized for doing so? At SJSU seats in classes are not put aside for each orientation session. [While I’m sure there are many factors that have gone into the creation of this policy, I think that one of the reasons SJSU can do this is because the majority of SJSU students are from the Bay Area and traveling to orientation is not a huge monetary or logistical problem for them. At schools with a much larger out-of-state population I’m sure that this policy would be met with a lot more criticism.] This means that students who register in later sessions have fewer and fewer options to choose from. Having successfully advised hundreds of students during registration I can safely say that it took a lot more preparation and resourcefulness to get students in the last orientations into classes that they needed and were prepared to take.

One of the biggest problems I ran into at SJSU was adhering to Executive Order 665. This order requires that all future Cal State students take entry level math (ELM) and English placement tests (EPT) before entering the university. SJSU admits a large number of students who are considered remedial based on their test results and these students are therefore required to take specific courses to take care of their remediation. Not only are these students required to take specific English and math courses, but they are also limited in the number of other courses they can take. For example, a remedial math student can’t take courses such as chemistry, economics, or life science. While this makes complete sense, it creates a number of limitations when it comes to registration. At the end of each orientation session every student had a full schedule of classes, but some were wait-listed for classes they technically HAD TO take in the fall and many had to settle for their third, fourth or fifth choice when it came to General Education (GE) courses.

One of the ways that we tried to prepare for the later sessions was to pull numbers of available seats for heavily required and recommended courses. This was a tedious process, particularly collating the data, but advisors seemed to appreciate the information. Some read off open sections to their students, some printed off copies for their students, some used the info sparingly, but at least they knew the extent of class availability before they headed into the registration lab. Another step that we took to try and help students out was to spend extra time showing them how to do a general search for open sections of classes vs. simply imputing class code numbers. This was not always the easiest process to try and explain, particularly when students were already chopping at the bit to get the labs, but for those who listened it was a valuable tool to have.

One of the question I’m left with when it comes to advising orientation students is whether or not advisors should amend their presentation based on current class status or continue to give the same presentation throughout the season. For example, at the beginning of the summer the Fall registration guidebook that we gave out was rather helpful. All of the sections for all of the classes had available spots and students could be confident that except for some small changes, the schedules they built the night before registering could be theirs the next day. In the beginning registering was simple, class codes could be used to pinpoint a specific course, specific section, specific time and date. Because all courses were available it was imperative that students understood which courses would count for multiple GE units, which courses were preferred by certain majors, etc. However, as more and more students registered for classes, more and more sections closed and the registration guidebook became rather archaic in nature. Asking students to create schedules and explaining course codes seemed unnecessary because no matter how many schedules they created, they were going to have to rework them entirely the next day in the lab. And once the courses that accounted for multiple GE’s were gone, advertising them seemed a bit futile as well. With this being said, I hesitate to say that I would change my presentation very much from the first to the last session. My main reason for saying this is because everyone needs to receive the same information so that they can be on par with one another when the next series of registration occurs. If an advisor chooses not to mention the multiple counting GEs simply because they are all gone, then students at later sessions can’t even plan on taking them in the spring or during their sophomore year. If students do not learn how to register using class codes that pinpoint their classes, they will have a much harder time registering once they become upperclassman. And learning to create schedules is one of the challenges and joys of being in college: “I get to pick what time I have math each day!”. In other words, I believe that while the circumstances in the labs may be changing, advisors must walk a fine line between amending their presentation to account for the changes and still providing all students with an equal and fair advising session, even if they don’t have equal access to classes.

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    The challenges, successes and ideas of a budding (student affairs) professional


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