Archive for February, 2009

Conflict and crisis management

Posted on February 28, 2009. Filed under: Uncategorized |

My experiences as the conduct GTA have provided me with a solid framework in how to deal with conflict and crisis both in the short-term and long-term as well as knowledge on how to prevent larger crises from arising. Having personally witnessed the Critical Incident Response Team and Bias Response Team handle and train for such crises I have been able to develop my own steps to dealing with the small conflicts and personal crises that I have handled thus far and at the same time instilled in me an understanding that constant improvement is necessary in order to stay on top of issues related to campus crisis management. Here is my basic outline of what I think are the keys to effective crisis management:

*Whenever possible, I would want to collaborate and act as a team when going through these steps*

1.) Assess the various types and levels of direct harm caused or likely to occur because of the immediate crisis. Physical injury or harm must be dealt with quickly and efficiently. It is imperative to create safety plans for those who may still be in harms way.

2.) Pool resources from both on and off campus to handle the direct and indirect effects of the crisis. This will include, but not be limited to mobilizing counseling and psychological services (to provide counseling to all those effected by the crisis),  health services (to provide sexual assault kits, infectious disease  and public health info, etc.) religious and spiritual advisors along with cultural service centers (to provide guidance and counseling), housing and dining services and local housing companies (to provide alternative or emergency shelter), and public safety/local law enforcement (to patrol and create campus wide safety plans). * If the crisis creates media attention then campus public relations needs to be informed so they can disperse information on the university’s behalf or let administrators know what they should and should not say.*

3.) Extend appropriate resources to all those involved in the crisis. While those directly affected may be getting the majority of the attention and services, it is important to also extend services to those less directly affected. Give those involved the opportunity to use the resources, but whenever possible don’t force these upon them. People in crisis often feel and or have had their power taken away from them in some way and allowing them to make choices may help in their recovery. At the same time, make personal attempts to discuss resources with individuals who may benefit from them. People will be much more likely to accept services that are recommended to them and people in crisis should not be made to research the options each service provides.

4.) Follow-up with all those involved. Make sure that the resources promised are being delivered. Find out what services or resources they are going to need in order to deal with the more long-term effects of the crisis. It is best to have a clear understanding of some of the resources you can and cannot provide going into this meeting. Also follow up with those providing the services. Can they maintain their current level of service? Do they need additional resources? Are those receiving services holding up any contractual agreements on their end?

5.) If possible, use the conflict or crisis to develop programs or create teachable moments for the campus community. If a crisis cannot be completely avoided, it may still be used as a tool to open people’s eyes to important issues on campus or in the community. When doing this, be very careful not to trivialize or make someone else’s injury or pain seem like just an academic matter.

6.) Analysis the situation. Figure out what could have been done better and what was done well. Brainstorm similar crises that might occur and do training exercises based on these events. Use events from other institutions or based on other current issues at college campuses to think ahead and prepare for potential, upcoming crises.

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My Role as an Advisor

Posted on February 23, 2009. Filed under: Uncategorized |

I have become very comfortable with my role as an advisor and therefore can outline my philosophies about this role best. Whether I am advising a student on what classes to take or providing advise on concepts to think about in order to avoid violations of the student conduct code I am trying to do the follow:

Build a trusting relationship with the student: No one is going to take advise from or even listen to someone who they don’t trust. The first step to building this trust is being knowledge about the information I am giving out. I have had to learn how to be comfortable telling a student that I don’t know something and well have to get back to them later. I have also had to become knowledgeable about the quickest ways to gather information to share with students. One of the biggest lessons I have learned during my time in UESP is that it is sometimes best to go through this research process with students so that they can learn how to properly search for things themselves. I think the second factor in building trust is delivering on what you promise. If I say I’m going to do something, like follow-up with a student in a month, then I better do it. If I offer a certain piece of information, I better be willing to stand behind it.

Showing a student that you see them in a holestic way (not just their class schedule /major or their violation for example): One of the best things about my job as a conduct officer is getting to spend a full hour with each student I see. That gives me between 15-30 minutes to really get to know a student: what classes they are taking, what groups they are a part of, where they have traveled, what their plans are for vacations and graduation. Often times it is through this first step that I gain a better understanding of why an incident took place and it most certainly affects the sanctioning process. Someone who hates to write but loves to do graphic art might be able to create an information flier instead of writing a reflective paper, while someone who wants to own a business or work in the medical or public health fields might get professional development out of an alcohol or drug education class. When it comes to UESP, I have less time, typically 30 minutes, and I must also help students build a schedule. While taking the time to ask a student about how the term is going, how their previous classes went, what types of extra-curiculars  they are involved in, what jobs they may have, etc. creates a time crunch, it also helps me provide better advising to students.

Recognizing and articulating what I can and can’t do: There are times when I have felt the need to step outside of my role as advisor and take on responsibilities that are outside of my domain. I have wanted to help students in ways I couldn’t (financial aid, legal matters, counseling, etc.) and found it hard to say “no”. I think that one of the most important things that I can do as advisor is clearly explain the roles and responsibilities I have from the students I see. I need to know what other resources on campus and in the community are available for them when they require other needs that I cannot fulfill and I need to feel comfortable recommending such resources if need be.

Being patient: Every student is on their own developmental path and it would be egotistical to assume that by simply meeting with me once they would completely change course or leap ahead in their own developmental process. As I good advisor, I accept this and recognize that even the smallest steps towards personal and professional gains is worth celebrating.

I know that I will continue building on these skills for years to come and that I will only get better as I advice more and more students and am confronted with more and more situations in which my advice is an integral part of  decision making processes.

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Advocate and Counselor Roles

Posted on February 22, 2009. Filed under: Uncategorized |

In my opinion, these roles sometimes converge into one and are sometimes mutually exclusive.

When it comes to the role of advocate, I tend to think back to a presentation that Larry Roper did for our Organization and Administration course. Instead of saying that he tried to be an advocate for students, Larry talked about assisting students in becoming advocates for themselves. I really latched on to this concept and feel like it greatly defines one of my most important roles as an student affairs professional. With this being said, I know there will be times when I will have to be an advocate, not only for myself, but for others who are not at the table. In many respects, I think that being an advocate in student affairs means recognizes when important parties aren’t being heard and being respectful enough of people’s differences to recognize when you can’t talk on their behalf.

Having worked with several members of OSU’s Counseling and Psychological Services, I often shy away from the thought that I am sometimes regarded as a counselor. I do not believe that I have the necessary tools or skills to truly embody this role. However, I have taken a counseling course and learned some of the necessary techniques used by effective counselors and understand that I must accept this role on a certain level and be willing to grow more in my counseling skills. In fact, I often think that at some point I may choose to go back to school and get another masters degree or PhD in counseling or a related field.

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Leadership= creating, conveying, and gaining more knowledge

Posted on February 22, 2009. Filed under: Uncategorized |

The times when I have seen myself as a leader within the groups that I previously mentioned often occur when I am asked to either present information on the groups’ behaves or when I am presenting information to the group.

For example, I felt like a leader within Student Conduct and the larger CIRT team when I was given the opportunity to present to my Success in the College Classroom class about Distressed and Disruptive Students. The PowerPoint for this presentation is included here (distressedstudents) and also provides information on Academic Dishonesty, which is another subject I get to present on regularly. I run my office’s Academic Dishonesty seminars and give similar presentations to incoming graduate teaching assistants. I have also trained an another CSSA student on how to give this presentation and I am also looking forward to giving a similar presentation during the Spring Oregon Judicial Officers meeting. In another example, I was given the chance to co-present academic advising information to incoming students during my time as a NODA intern and gave numerous presentations about AmeriCorps during my terms of service. Giving these presentations ultimately reflects leadership within the various groups I was a part of because I was and am entrusted with providing others with a good understanding of what my office and other alliances do, the knowledge that we have gathered, how to incorporate this information into other people’s and office’s practices, and the values and mission my groups strive for and promote.

I have also felt like a leader within the groups I discussed when I have been afforded the opportunity to present my findings on particular projects to the group. In the case of the Student Life alliance, I have been able to present information on the environmental audit I helped create which you can read more about here. In this case, I felt like a leader because I had information that could benefit a group and was able to research it and decide on a good way to convey the information to the entire unit. While I have already expressed the challenges that this created, I still feel like it was a leadership opportunity and I ran with it.

In many respects I believe that I was also offered a leadership role from the moment I accepted and started my assistantship with student conduct. I say this because I have had to walk the talk of a conduct officer. I have had to embody the values of the office I work for and convey those same values to all of the students I interact with during hearings. I have to articulate these same values, along with my assistantship experiences, to my fellow classmates, professors, and blog readers while maintaining strict levels of confidentiality. I have been considered a professional and colleague and been exposed to the various complexities involved in conduct and crisis management. I have had to have the leadership capability to assess situations and think about the ways in which I would handle similar situations in the future. I have a clear enough understanding of my place within the group to ask clarifying questions and debrief with other members in order to clarify my own thoughts and learn more through the process. While at first it might seem like having to ask questions indicates that I am not a leader within the group, I disagree. Being able to ask questions, to me, symbolizes that I have confidence in the things I do know and confidence in my ability to learn more.

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Working Alliances

Posted on February 22, 2009. Filed under: Uncategorized |

One of the main ways in which I have worked with members throughout campus is my membership in the Bias Response Team and Student Life Alliance and as an observer of the Critical Incident Response Team. As a result, I have engaged with faculty and staff members from various departments on campus including but not limited to University Housing and Dining, Public Safety, Counseling and Psychological Services, Disability Access Services, Career Services, New Student Programs and Family Outreach, Intercultural Student Services, Campus Media, and GLBT Services. Having had this experience, I can definitely see the benefit to being a part of and maintaining such cross-campus teams throughout my career.

I think the greatest benefit has been getting to know student needs and university responses to such needs from various angles. At a large university, with many specialized units it can be easy to get comfortable with one’s own area and fail to recognize that others are dealing with the same or similar issues or that they don’t understand every office’s unique contribution to an situation. For example, in this group a professor might observe an incident that they believe is bias motivated. In the bringing the issue to the group, they can learn about whether or not the accused students are violating the student conduct code, what resources would be available to students who were offended or hurt, what if any role student media have played or can play in the situation, etc. These teams also help to ensure that no one needs to reinvent the wheel and provide  incoming professional with a great frame of reference for what has been done in the past and what should be done, based on campus culture in the future.

Positively manage, develop, and engage

I think the key to positively managing, develop and engaging such groups are to:

• Recognize and respect the unique strengths and knowledge that every member brings to the table- if certain members feel lesser than or not as appreciated things will go sour quickly.

• Let members of the team speak from their own expertise, experiences, and abilities- assuming that one person will know how to solve the problem or have the essential information necessary to solve it just because of their position is problematic.

• Facilitate collaboration- if people leave a meeting with a long list of things that they can do alone, it lessens the chance they will rely on one other when they have additional questions, which can lead to less thorough problem-solving and inadequate responses to unforeseen challenges. Trying to create partnerships within the group when addressing smaller scale problems with create greater trust and understanding of the strengths each person brings to the group when it comes to handling larger, more critical issues.

• Celebrate successes and learn from mistakes- teams need to be able to congratulate one another when they do something well otherwise members will get burned out and lose sight of why they are meeting and working together in the first place. Team also need to spend time debriefing things that could have been done better. Brainstorming ways to improve the next time and additional people they may need to consult with if the situation arises again.

• Participate in professional development- There is always room to improve. Workshops, presentations, reviewing case-studies, reading books and articles as a team, etc. will all help to improve the function of the team. It will also make members of the group aware that their best interests as well as the larger community are being cared for.

• Keep detailed records of what the group discussing, what actions it takes, things that work and things that don’t- This will help when similar issues arise and will also help to get new professionals up to speed quicker.

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Values and Strengths of Leaders

Posted on February 17, 2009. Filed under: Uncategorized |

In an effort to take advantage of all the thinking I did related to the concept of leadership in my organization and administration course, here are the highlights of my Ah Ha Journals. I think they are great soundbites with regards to my thoughts on what leadership is all about.

Leaders must work to cultivate strong relationships between themselves and others, as well as create working environments where all employees can forge strong relationships based on respect and trust. If people in an organization respect and trust one another they will be less likely to resort to the fear, isolation and tunnel vision.

Good leaders create a shared vision that everyone can relate to in both a personal and professional way. If all members of an organization are committed to achieving the same big picture goals then it becomes easier trust one another and agree to the inevitable changes that will need to be made in order to reach these goals.

Key attributes of a leader include being comfortable with tense and complex situations and being able to make quality decisions in these conditions. This seems like a particularly tough thing to do when your business is so wrapped up in serving other people (students, co-workers, other university partners). Sometimes a quality decision involves creating additional tension and complexity and on the surface, this doesn’t seem to serve anyone. A leader must be able to convey the long term goals that outweigh the tension and complexity of the moment.

Good leaders know when to listen; they know when to follow. They are gracious and acknowledge when they do not know something or when they must rely on others for information. They value professional development and work-life balance in others and demonstrate it through their own actions.

The key to successful student leadership is creating “communities of reciprocal care and shared responsibility”. These environments allow leaders to be selfless in their pursuit of other people’s development, growth and well-being while not having to sacrifice self-care. This is the type of community that I, as a student affairs professional and future leader within the field, hoped to build not only for those I work with, but among the student communities I influence.

Sometimes as a leader you must “care more than others think is wise and risk more than others think is safe”. Big changes are often done under fierce scrutiny. Leaders have the determination to see their visions through and not let criticism derail their sincere intentions.

• One of the main goals as a leader is to ensure that those who aren’t at the table, who aren’t being heard, are let in and given the chance to be heard. A leader can’t be an advocate for others but they can allow others to be advocates for themselves.

• A leader is authentic. They walk the talk. They take responsibility for their own actions and are graceful in their defeats. They pursue new knowledge and new experiences in order to provide greater service to those who they lead and those who will one day take their place.

 

 

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Career Planning/Decision Making

Posted on February 17, 2009. Filed under: Uncategorized |

The concept of career planning/decision making has always been a scary one for me. Despite the fact that I spent seven years away from school before returning for my masters degree, I have never spent much time  researching career paths and am still not quite sure how being on one will look or feel. Part of me has always been apprehensive about making long term plans because of the potential disappointment when things fall through or when circumstances change and I have to start all over.

Despite these fears, I have definitely solidified the areas of student affairs that I am most excited about pursuing careers in during my time in graduate school. While I remain convinced that things will change and I will adapt accordingly, I have a strategy for my current job search and am slowly implementing it. I have also identified the workplace environments that I would be most happy in and will try to ascertain these factors during interviews and campus visits.

My ideal position would involve plenty of opportunities to work with student in one-on-one and small group settings. I am interested in positions that give me the chance to reach out to the larger campus community through presentations, teaching opportunities and sitting on various committees, but where the bulk of my job is still student interactions. I have a great passion for working with students who are transferringinto the college community and therefore will seek positions where I get to be an active part in their integration process. Given that my experiences in both my assistantship with UESP met these expectations, I am currently looking for jobs in both academic advising and judicial affairs. My job search has primarily consisted of repeatedly checking higheredjobs.com and NACADA’s website for job updates. I have also added the HR sites of colleges I would really enjoy working at to my favorites menu. It has been a bit disappointing to see so few conduct coordinator positions available, but I plan to stay active in this area of student affairs by volunteering to be on the equivalent of OSU’s Student Conduct Committee and do anything else that allows me to stay abreast of conduct related issues.

I have made the choice not attend the NASPA placement exchange because I do not think that it is a healthy venue for me to conduct interviews or network within and have also made the decision to not seek out positions  in-residence (even though that is where the most entry-level conduct positions are located) because I need a more clear separation between my work and my life. While I would like to work somewhere in the western United States, I have not ruled out any other area of the country as long as the job is something I am passionate about doing.

In terms of what I want out of a work environment, first and foremost I want colleagues who are willing and able to collaborate with one another and where respect and clear communication are valued. I want to work in an office where new ideas are free to circulate and everyone supports the overall mission of the office, department and college. Professional development should be valued and promoted, whether that involves giving individuals the right to attend certain events or creating division wide activities. I want to have the support of my supervisors engage in learning communities across campus as well as within the professional organizations I belong to during my career.  I want to work with people who recognize the benefits of live-work balance and try to model it and support it in others.

I realize that all of these factors may not come together in my first job; I will have to be flexible and patient as I learn the ropes at a new place and test the waters to see what elements I like and which are challenging. Despite the hesitations I have about leaving, I am very excited about my next adventure and quite confident that the decisions I am making now will pay off in years to come.

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My “Fit” Within the Profession

Posted on February 16, 2009. Filed under: Uncategorized |

I think that my desire and need for hands-on learning will keep me in the role of student affairs practitioner for quite a while. I plan on working in many different areas of student affairs in order to learn the in and outs before I attempt to move into greater leadership roles. I know that I cannot simply read up on a new area of specialization or go to a series of conferences and absorb knowledge and therefore I will need to seek out jobs that allow me to wear multiple hats and get experience in many different areas.

I am well aware that my introvert tendencies will play a key role in the positions I take and the tasks I enjoy the most. Academic advising and conduct have both afford me with lots of opportunities to work with students in one-on-one settings and I will invariably seek out similar opportunities in the future. With this said, I have greatly enjoyed my time in the classroom both as an instructor and as an orientation advisor and will no doubt seek out  more of these experiences in the future. My ideal teaching environment would be in a small learning community dedicated to enhancing the first-year experience.

Lastly, if it hasn’t already become obvious, I will state for the record that I bring a great passion for dissecting issues and programs to my work in student affairs. I have enjoyed countless hours with others in my cohort talking about the philosophical side of student affairs and then brainstorming ways in which we will do things differently. I enjoy being in the think tank: breaking things down, looking at all the parts or processes, and trying to think about innovative ways in which things can be adjusted in order to make them more effective and efficient. Along these same lines, I am good at devising the knowledge and tools that people will need in order to make their work easier. As far as the implementation of such brainstorming is concerned, well that isn’t really my forte. [Have you noticed how much data and analysis I bring up for very little conclusion?] and that is why I will ultimately need to collaborate with others who are willing to run with the ideas I’m throwing out. While I absolutely hate the word consultant, my abilities at analyzing systems, suggesting changes based on the needs, skills and objectives the a group and then moving on down the road may come in quite handy as I seek to find my ideal place within the field of student affairs.

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Community Involvement Outside of the Workplace

Posted on February 16, 2009. Filed under: Uncategorized |

I think that maintaining networks outside of OSU have helped to keep me sane and also introduced me to a diversity of experiences and knowledge that I would otherwise not have. Some outside involvement has been formal in nature, including my membership in professional associations like NASPA, NODA, and OJO (Oregon Judicial Officers). These memberships have allowed me to gainaccess to numerous resources, including journal articles, webinars, and conference presentations. My memberships have also introduced me to the key issues, concepts, and buzz words within specific areas of student affairs. Most importantly, I have been able to network with other student affairs professionals and develop a bond among people with similar professional and personal values and interests as myself. I think about my experience as a NODA intern and realize that having the chance to work with and reflect with other up and coming professionals in the field was invaluable to helping my examine my fit in the field and how my skills and knowledge fit into the greater scope of student affairs. In other words, community involvement is key for professional development and I plan to stay connected to such organizations in the future, particularly as I look towards the huge learning curve associated with a new job.

In addition to the formal communities I have become involved in, I think it is only fair to mention how beneficial it has been to maintain social communities outside of the sphere of graduate school and work. While I will be the first to admit that I have not been particularly good at this during the past two years, I am quite confident that I will seek out such engagement in the future. Of particular interest to me will be recommitting myself to service work and becoming an active participant in the AmeriCorps Alumni network. In addition, I plan to continue being a member of my university’s learning community by continuing to take classes and engage in the classroom communities that are ever-present on college campuses.

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Social/Collective Responsibility

Posted on February 16, 2009. Filed under: Uncategorized |

One of the building blocks for my ethical standards is my belief in collective responsibility- the concept that we are all responsible for creating a greater good and that our individual decisions have an impact on communities we are a part of and even those we think little about. I know that my decision making process is often built around analyzing how my decisions affect others and how I can do the most good for the most people. In my conduct hearings, I try to ask questions that get students thinking about how their actions impact others and I see this same value playing out in my work as an academic advisor because I see choosing majors and careers as an integral part of deciding  which ways students will one use their talents to do the most good.

While the gravity of collective responsibility has worn me down on occasion and I have wished for a day, a week, or a month where my decisions could be made independently without the slightest impact on anyone else, I am constantly brought back to the happiness and motivation that comes with recognizing my place in the larger systems within which I operate and the peace of mind knowing that other people are out there using their talents and knowledge to do the most good as well. This is what collective responsibility is all about- recognizing and valuing each others talents, understanding our interconnectedness and working together in innovative ways that bring about positive change.

Specifically I see myself applying this value to my work in the ways I described above. I also plan to seek employment at institutions or at least within departments that promote social responsibility, not only amongst students, but within the faculty and staff. I think that offices that foster a great deal of collaboration, effective communication, and meaningful interpersonal relationships showcase the qualities needed to promote and celebrate the gains made by those who live according to the standards of collective responsibility.

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