Archive for December, 2008

Needs of Community College Students

Posted on December 30, 2008. Filed under: Uncategorized |

While this is no where list, here are some of the unique wants/needs that community college students may have and may influence their decision to attend community colleges and how these needs influence the work of student affairs professionals.

• Affordable way to complete remedial course work and/or core curriculum before transferring to 4-year institution for major specific courses- Academic advisors at both community colleges and 4-year institutions must have a working knowledge of the polices and procedures surrounding transfer credit. Both groups should maintain close working relationships with colleagues at institutions where a great deal of transferring takes place. Easy to access on-line transfer credit should be available to students and the process for applying for and receiving transfer credit should be student and staff friendly.

Smaller classroom sizes- This may be a particularly serious consideration for students who are nervous about entering the college environment or have learning difficulties that can be exacerbated by large classes which tend to be more intimidating than smaller ones. Smaller classes may also allow for more one-on-one time with instructors and therefore increase academic engagement for some students. Community college administrators need to market this benefit and those at 4-year colleges should keep it in mind when advising students who might benefit for the above reasons.

Convenient class schedules and campus locations- Students who have other obligations: work, family, community may pick a community college because its class schedule is geared towards others with these obligations. This can be a great marketing tool and something that advisors at high schools, community colleges and 4-year institutions should keep in mind when advising students.

• Larger non-traditional student populations- Having a more diverse student body, particularly older than average students and under-served populations can be a major reason for choosing to attend a community college. This diversity can help with the identity development and maintenance transitional issues mentioned in previous posts.

• Technical training, certifications, and professional development opportunities

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College choice based on Additional Identity Support (or Challenge)

Posted on December 30, 2008. Filed under: Uncategorized |

I think one of the unique needs/wants of students choosing to attend a community college, historically black college or university (HBCU), Latino serving institution, private or public college, or religious university is to address and lessen the identity struggles that come with the transition to college. As I have spoken about previously, one of the largest challenges to incoming students is dealing with the losses and changes in identity that they face in the college setting. Students who are unaccustomed or uncomfortable with identity change or who feel like their success will be minimized by its affects may choose to attend an institution where they can maintain significant portions of their identity, build on ones that they feel most strongly about, and see their values reflected in the student body and administration. Examples of this are varied. Some students may choose to attend community college because it allows them to be closer to family members and therefore maintain their strong identity as a father, mother, sister, son, etc. A black student who attended a primarily Caucasian high school may choose to attend an HBCU in order to develop a stronger connection to his ethnic identity and/or show his support for higher education institutions that focus on serving underrepresented populations. A devote Christian may choose to attend a private, religious institution in order to ensure that her religious identity, traditions and values will be respected and incorporated into her education. In the same vein, some students may choose a particular type of  institution in order to explore a part of their identity that they have not spent much time developing or to face the challenge of succeeding in an environment where their identities, values, and thoughts may be quite different from the majority of the college community.

For students who chose a school in order to receive additional support in maintaining or developing a particular identity it is important that there be resources available to support students at every stage of this process. Some students will come to college with a very clear recognition of their identity, how they feel about it, and how they articulate and display their identity to others. Other students may not be quite as far along in the identity development process and therefore may be experiencing feelings of fear, anger, confusion, and extreme excitement. Hiring faculty and staff that can recognize the needs of students at all of these stages and respect students wherever they are along the continuum is important. Student support services and programming that deals with identity development and celebration must also cater to all students along the continuum.

It will also be a given that some students who originally come to a college to receive additional identity development/ maintenance support will decide that they are no longer as connected to or supportive of that particular identity and therefore need to find other reasons to stay at the institution or transfer schools. In the best case scenario, college faculty and administrators will be supportive of students as they struggle with these issues and provide them with the necessary support and resources to make informed decisions about whether they should stay or transfer. Students who attend a particular college for the challenge of receiving less support may also find themselves at a similar cross-roads and will need similar support and resources.

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Technology: seeing the good and the worrisome

Posted on December 26, 2008. Filed under: Uncategorized |

In many ways I feel like technology has been seen as a savior for higher education. It has created a new and rapidly increasing sector of distance education. Technology has lead to upgrades in the campus safety allowing students to have access to up-to-date information in a matter of minutes. It has provided administrators with effective and budget friendly tools to communicate with colleagues allowing for greater and easier  sharing of ideas and creating a world-wide learning community.

Technology has made it easier to communicate with students and provided a vastly quicker mechanism for them to find the services and people they need to succeed. Social networking sites and blogs allow admissions and new student program departments to maintain closer connections with perspective and incoming students. Online assessments have become a standard form of practice, allowing for more accurate date collection and lower costs. Podcasts, webcasts, and instant messages allow students to learn about important polices, procedures, dates, etc. from the comfort of their own residence halls, homes, or simply walking to class. It is absolutely essential for incoming student affairs professionals to be well aware and familiar with these technologies in order to ensure that they can utilize them to best help their students succeed.

With that being said, it is also important that student affairs professionals do not get into the habit of using technology simply for technology’s sake. The threat of technology overload is real and must be recognized. It is becoming hard to reach students by email and online surveys because their inboxes are flooded with mostly “Delete before reading” university emails. While it is great to have online directories and websites for every possible university office, it often takes a face-to-face meeting before any real support or services can be provided- therefore interpersonal skills will always be necessary to balance out technological tools. Webinars, list serves, online journals, etc. are wonderful tools, but professional communities will never be strong without opportunities for professionals to meet and discuss issues, challenges, and victories together. [Not to mention the eye damage from starring at the computer screen reading all those articles!]

It is also important to remember that technology creates divides among our student population. While some students are incredibly technology savvy and have access to high speed Internet, I-pods, blackberries, etc. others have neither the knowledge nor accessories to fully take advantage of these new mediums of communication. It is important that colleges recognize this disparity and make every effort to provide alternative options that allow all students to access such features or afford all students with the technology necessary to access the newest advances.

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U-Engage Syllabus

Posted on December 18, 2008. Filed under: Uncategorized |

This is the syllabus that I used when I taught my freshman seminar course during the Fall of 2008:


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Late Registration Presentation for SJSU students

Posted on December 18, 2008. Filed under: Uncategorized |

This is a PowerPoint that I created for a presentation to San Jose State University (SJSU) students who were going through the late registration program instead of the traditional two-day orientation program. It is based on the orientation presentation by a full-time SJSU advisor.


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Non-Traditional Student Orientations

Posted on December 17, 2008. Filed under: Uncategorized |

Non-traditional (in this context I’m referring to transfers, commuters, part-time, and older than average)  student populations continue to grow and in all likelihood will continue to do so. With this growth, comes the challenge of creating effective and engaging orientation programs for these students. While traditional new student programming focuses on both academic and extra-curricular engagement, non-traditional student programming must augment this combination in order to properly address the varied needs and concerns that these students have.

One of the major challenges regarding non-traditional programming is that the students coming to sessions have so many specific wants and needs and are often less willing or able to sit through information they don’t need in order to get to the information they want. Issues vary but may include: How to find nearby daycare, the cost of parking, how credits or military experience will transfer, how can I get/stay involved on campus, where to go and relax and/or study between classes, information about online classes, what types and amounts of student fees do I pay AND where can I meet more people my own age.

For me one of the keys to addressing this challenge is to continuously be aware of the prevalent issues for non-traditional students within my institution. This awareness can come from keeping up on professional journals, learning from community colleges and other institutions that have large non-traditional student populations and also seeking out non-traditional students who are willing to share their experiences in order to better shape and guide future orientation programs. By doing these things, I can help to ensure that the right people and resources will be available when students either come to campus or attend a virtual orientation session. Off the top of my head I recommend having information fairs where all of the necessary people and departments are available, but not required to address every student’s questions. It may also be helpful to provide non-traditional campus tours that include stops at parking services, computer labs, places to rest/nap, daycare centers, etc. Virtual orientations or at least partially virtual through podcasts, website tours, webinars, etc. may be beneficial to reach students who cannot attend orientations or at least supplement on-campus programming.

Another important thing to keep in mind is that despite the unique issues of non-traditional students it is also important to ensure that they receive similar if not the same information as traditional students regarding academic and social engagement. All of these students should be encouraged to seek out research, internship, and study abroad opportunities available on their campuses. They should be aware of academic resources on campus including but not limited to writing and learning centers, academic coaching, professor’s office hours, and disability access services. And they should also be aware of the various ways that they could get involved socially on campus, including ways that they could connect or translate their current community involvement into something on campus.

The challenges associated with non-traditional student populations will probably continue to increase as the variety of needs and questions these students have continue to grow and become more complicated. Student affairs professionals who are able to recognize the needs of students within this population and produce effective, efficient services to meet these needs will be highly sought out for their knowledge and program planning skills.

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The “Right” to Drink and Drug Part II

Posted on December 17, 2008. Filed under: Uncategorized |

The moment that I polished off my first post on this topic I knew I needed to write a follow-up. While the first post may have left you thinking that I frame my stance on underage drinking and illegal drug use strictly on personal consequences and a student’s ability to accept, weigh and then decide what means the most to them, that is not the complete story. One of my strongest personal and professional values is that of community building and collective responsibility AND drinking/drugging tend to have a negative impact on communities; students need to realize that they are not only responsible for their own actions, but how those actions impact others. It is this premise, along with those mentioned previously that further guide my conversations with students.

When talking with students I want to know who else was affected by the incident in question. Did a roommate or RA  have to watch over you or clean up your mess after a night of heavy drinking? Was another student’s study or sleep schedule interrupted because of your actions? Did a co-worker have to cover a shift or make up an excuse for you? Did a parent, friend or community member have to spend a restless night worried? Was a professor disrespected by your absence, tardiness, sleeping in class or poor performance on a test? AND after all these, the more follow-up questions such as, Have they ever been the caretaker for a drunk or high friend? Have they ever been inconvienced or disrespected as a result of another person’s drinking/drugging? How did it make you feel? What did you expect that person to do to make it up to you/ What can you do to restored order to the community that they have negatively affected?

Fortunately this conversation feeds very nicely into the one about person responsibility. In the long run, every personal consequence does come with a collective one. If they choose or are required to take an alcohol or drug diversion class then someone from health services is required to teach it and do their intake appointment. If they have to pay a fine to the courts then someone has to process the paperwork and attend the court hearing. If choose  to make personal amends to someone who was hurt because of their actions that other person has to be willing to listen and relive the experience.

It is important for my conversations with students to address this ripple effect. Even after addressing the violation from this community consequence/collective responsibility side, students may still choose to engage in behaviors that suject them to very negative consequences. It is still their choice whether they drink/drug, but now they know that they are not only risking their own values, goals, and well-being, but also risking the values, goals and well-being of others.

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Internalized Oppression

Posted on December 15, 2008. Filed under: Uncategorized |

Before taking Ethics of Diversity during the spring 2008 term, I had never heard of, or given much thought to the concept of internalized oppression. Internalized oppression occurs when members of a minority group use the same tactics as their oppressor to hold themselves or others in their minority group down. Those who are internally oppressed usually believe the negative stereotypes and marginalized status of themselves and the group they belong to.

The concept of internalized oppression is a very difficult one to talk about or discuss at length. I think this is because it creates a very real and painful portrait of self-hatred and prays on a person’s vision of self-concept and group identity. In addition, I think it is a very subversive and therefore extremely well hidden from society’s conscious. I for one, want to like myself; I want to be content with who I am and I want to be proud of the various ways in which I identify. And yet if I look carefully enough I can see elements of internalized homophobia that have conflicted with my ideal version of myself as well my group identity. In my case, internalized oppression started out through the act of intentionally not portraying any of society’s negative stereotypes attached to either the GLBT community. Of course, the consequence of this behavior was to look down on and avoid those people who looked, behaved or thought in ways that reflected society’s negative views. If it were not for the GLBT friends and mentors I met in college (obviously I wasn’t all that good at avoiding them) I am fairly sure that my internalized homophobia would have led me down the road towards believing that people deserve to be oppressed based on how they looked, behaved or thought.

Based on my experience and my knowledge of student affairs in general, I believe that internalized oppression can have an extremely damaging effect on college students’ success. One of the most damaging stereotypes is that certain underrepresented populations are not as smart or hardworking and therefore are far less likely to succeed in college. Of course, those who believe in and spread this misinformation never talk about the various systems of oppression (socio-economical, educational, political, etc.) that lead some students to be better prepared for college than others. Instead they attribute all of a student’s academic potential to their ethnicity. Because this “extra”  information is swept under the rug, students are often compelled to believe the stereotype. Many choose to individually rebel against it and prove society wrong, however in doing so they may also make value judgements against their peers who are unable to succeed at the same level. Instead of recognizing the systems of oppression at work, along with the different learning styles and motivations of their peers as the reason for their success or failure, they attribute it all to peer’s ethnicity. And thereby begin on the path towards internalized oppression. There are countless other examples of stereotypes that work in a similar if not same pattern.

Having only come across the concept of internalized oppression fairly recently, I am quite uncertain how student affairs professionals can help to address and hopefully dismantle it. I know from my own experience that it took longer than my 4 years in college to properly recognize, address and reflect on my own internalized homophobia. For me it was important to interact with people in the GLBT community and recognize that all of them were individuals with good and bad traits. Moreover I realized that the things I respected the most about them and the things I disliked the most had nothing to do with their sexuality, let alone their ethnicity, religion, or politics. Given my own experience my only hope is that student affairs continues to strive towards providing students with greater opportunities to explore their own identities through academic and extra-curricular programming AND interact with people who share those identities and with people who have complete different identities through formal and informal programming.


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Sexual Orientation

Posted on December 15, 2008. Filed under: Uncategorized |

I identify as a lesbian although sometimes I feel more comfortable using the term gay, because it is more inclusive, although not as inclusive as the newly reclaimed term queer, which I don’t particularly like. While this may seem like a personal diatribe, I think it is actually a very real example of how important language is when discussing identity. Words that identify people are complicated. I still feel a great deal of uncertainty with what the most student affairs friendly terms for identifying people are and they always seem to be changing. It’s confusing to discuss and explain to people the reasons why certain groups can use words to identify themselves that they wouldn’t want anyone outside of that group saying. Words have multiple meanings and cause different reactions and feelings within each individual. I think the real problem with identity words is that they are all loaded to a certain degree with values, strengths, weaknesses, assumptions, etc. and most people don’t want to be tied to all of that simply because they say they identify accordingly. This is why I believe whole-heartedly that every person has the right to describe themselves and their identities in ways they see most fit. 

Another insight that my sexual orientation has afforded me is an understanding of how challenging it can be to come to terms with one’s own identity. The hardest person to come out to (in my case) was myself. This took a long time because I was worried that by simply announcing this identity I was inheriting all of the values, strengths, weaknesses, etc. that I had ever heard about the GLBT community. I feel like this is a very real and valid fear for GLBT students along with other students contemplating their various identities. In an effort to reject categorization students (including me) often avoid and don’t take advantage of the support services available to them. Having dealt with this fear on my own, I think I have a great deal of empathy for students who deal with the same or similar issues. I understand the fear, anger and sense of unfairness that come with “checking a box” and automatically feeling connected and conversely disconnected with certain people, values, goals, etc.

Given my first-hand experience with this, I think it is my responsibility to share my feelings with students who may be going through similar situations. I must share my own methods of reconciliation between my actual values and those that were thrust upon me. I must catch myself whenever I begin to attribute specific values, strengths or weaknesses to a person because of one or more the ways in which they identify and try to help others avoid the habit. I must recognize and contribute to the resources and support services provided to various cultural groups and yet still keep in mind that not every student who identifies with a particular group will need or want those services. 

Lastly my sexual orientation has allowed me to have first hand experience with feelings of internalized oppression. I shall devote a full post to this topic which you can access here or through my multicultural competence page. 

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The “Right” to Drink and Drug

Posted on December 15, 2008. Filed under: Uncategorized |

One of the greatest challenges that I face as a conduct officer is trying to turn the tide against many of the collegiate “rights of passage” that are interwoven into the fabric of our society. Whether it is through the proliferation of movies made in honor of Animal House (Old School, American Pie, Van Wilder…), or personal drinking/drugging habits in high school or simply by the age old tradition of storytelling, most college students come to campus with a romantic view of the drinking/drugging that await them. Not only do students view these behaviors as necessary in order to build friendships and create life-long memories, they also feel that it is their right to engage in these behaviors. Their parents did it, their siblings did it, their favorite actor or actress did it, heck they did it in high school, so why can’t they do it here and now?

Here’s my best response: First and foremost, you can and some of you will drink and do drugs. There’s no way to catch everyone, every time and believe me when I tell you that campus police do not have to go searching for underage drinkers and drug users; they come to them. Just because you can drink/drug that doesn’t mean you should. Those of you who do decide to drink/drug are taking on a huge responsibility. You are basically saying that you are willing to accept responsibility and be held accountable for actions that you may commit while using substances that have been proven to impair reasoning and judgment, lower inhibitions, and exaggerate emotions.  

For those of you who are willing to take on this responsibility, please be aware that if you act in a way that violates the student conduct code, you will be meeting with a conduct officer. Of course there is no way for this officer to simply sanction you to quite drinking/drugging. Instead it would be my hope that you will leave your meeting with a much better understanding of the consequences that await you if you continue to engage in the same behavior that got you there in the first place. I want you to acknowledge and accept that a repeat violation will affect you in some of these ways: taking much needed money out of your pocket, losing ability to live on campus, taking financial aid out of your grasp, putting internship, research opportunities and study abroad trips out of reach, and seriously put a strain on your employment opportunities after graduation-that is, if you graduate, because multiple violations might result in you being asked to leave the university. I want you to acknowledge and accept that excessive drinking/drugging is often responsible for strained and lost friendships, academic difficulties, physical and emotional violence, and injury to one’s self and others.

These consequences may seem a bit extreme, but you deserve to hear the truth. You may think it is your right to drink/drug, but it is your right to know all the things you must be willing to lose. You get to decide whether the opportunity to make friends- friends who demand that you drink or drug, and life-long memories -memories that involve products that produce memory loss are worth the risks involved. It is your right choose.

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