Archive for March, 2009

Those Who Are Bold Enough to Say “I’m Exploring”

Posted on March 24, 2009. Filed under: UESP Internship |

One of the greatest challenges when advising UESP students is maintaining a working knowledge of so many major and college requirements, the logistics of transferring, and the various ways in which a student can go about exploring various majors and careers. I know that advising students who have declared a major has its own perils and requires a much more thorough understanding of specific majors, minors, internship programs, learning communities, you name it and I am by no regard discounting or minimizing these efforts. However, I will admit that I early on, I thought advising in a college might be easier and therefore was contemplating focusing on these types of advising positions within the job search.

What has ultimately swung the pendulum back in the UESP students favor, or at least balanced everything out again, is my respect for students who are bold enough to admit that they are exploring. I for one was unable to do so and stayed in a major that did not fit my interests or strengths as a result. I believe that my undergraduate experience would have been far more enriching if I had been willing to admit that my original major choice was not based on a thoughtful or thorough analysis or if I had been willing to enlist the help of an advisor in exploring different pathways. Instead I explored on my own, mostly through random courses that did not provide a good avenue for learning more majors I was considering and after becoming frustrated with what seemed like a losing process resolved myself to simply get my diploma as fast as I could.  It is because of this personal history that I am truly inspired by those students who come into college so open to learn, so passionate about many subjects, so uncertain but trusting of the exploration process. While I may end up advising for many different academic disciplines and  students in many stages of their major and career decision making process during my career, I will continue supporting and facilitating the exploration process in whatever ways I can.

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Time Crunch+Pride=Lessons Learned

Posted on March 23, 2009. Filed under: UESP Internship |

The greatest challenge that I faced when I started my UESP internship was adjusting from one-hour conduct appointments to the 30 minute advising appointments. Having had two terms to reflect upon this challenge, I can safely say that I am slowly but surely getting better at managing the limited time I have with students in advising appointments, but it is still a struggle.

I attribute a large part of the challenge to the fact that so far I have only advised for four hours a week during the later part of the term and therefore am in many ways still learning the ins and outs of OSU’s academic and registration systems. While I try to re-read and refresh my memory on many of the facts that I learned during my initial training period and keep up on any new information that comes my way, I have still found myself stumped by several of the questions that my students ask me and having to say “I don’t know, but I can get back to you” has been one of the hardest things for me to do. This experience has helped me realize that I still have a lot of work to do on feeling confident enough in my own abilities to admit when I don’t know something. I still feel a loss of pride and self-confidence when I have to ask for help and I know that is something I will have to work on and improve upon in order to be a leader in student affairs.

Through my advising experience I have come to realize several things related to this personal struggle. First of all, when I don’t ask questions, when I put my pride before everything else I not only compromise my performance, but I compromise the quality of my students’ advising and for me that is simply unacceptable. I see this playing out in many other situations as well. If I am unwilling to ask questions in staff meetings or in the classroom, then I am denying my co-workers and classmates a different angle for seeing the issues we are discussing. Secondly, I have come to see the phrase “I don’t know” as a way to humanize the advising process, which can come across as mechanic and prescriptive at times. The students I advise need to know that I am not a computer, that I am not an expert on all things OSU; and that I can’t simply spout out the answers to all the questions they have. Which brings me to my last point (at least for now) surrounding this issue: saying “I don’t know, but I think we can find the answer if we look together” is a great way to empower students. I think that one of the most effective uses of my time during advising appointments is helping students learn to navigate the various information gathering tools available to them via the OSU website and publications. When a student has a question that I don’t know the answer to but I think can be found without taking up too much time, then we brainstorm and we look at different sites. We work together, the student driving the search for information that they need.

The balance between knowing enough information to keep an academic advising appointment at under 30 minutes and still find time to empower students and help them through the information gathering process will always be a struggle. Luckily I have developed an ability to see the silver lining, the teachable moment, in the struggle and that is a lens I hope to continuing developing.

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Administrative Actions to Campus Climate Issues

Posted on March 7, 2009. Filed under: Uncategorized |

The OSU Healthy Campus Initiative seems like a rather ideal model with which to talk about his concept. The coordinating philosophy of the groups is to prepare for incidents and train and empower teams to respond effectively, document what is being done about specific incidents or issues on campus and help to restore a positive learning environment and uphold OSU’s education mission after an incident occurs. I have had the opportunity to sit in on several of the teams that make up the initiative and gain an understanding of how they all work together to address campus climate issues. The Critical Incident Response Team seeks to address issues concerning distressed and disruptive students as well as severe violations of the student conduct code, and/or state or federal laws. Here are my thoughts on what makes a great CIRT. The Bias Response Team seeks to prevent and respond to bias incidents on campus, while maintaining an understanding of students freedom of speech rights. The Suicide Awareness Task Force provides information to students and staff members about ways to recognize and respond to potential risks of suicide and also helps to respond to members of the community who attempt suicide and those in the community affected by attempts.

These teams were created by administrative action in order to deal with the changing dynamics of student issues with regards to overall health, wellness, and success as college students. Creating teams where staff and faculty members can share their expertise, report new and upcoming issues, and work to create lasting changes for the betterment of student success is a key administrative actions that will address campus climate issues appropriately.

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Legal Issues

Posted on March 7, 2009. Filed under: Uncategorized |

In my Legal Issues in Higher Education course I got a thorough framework for understanding the two most broad areas of legal concern for colleges and universities: tort liability and freedom of speech rights. I did my legal memo on the potential ramifications of deconstructing a free speech zone  on a college campus (it will be up shortly) and also completed two case briefings (RAV vs. St. Paul and Southworth v. The Board of Regents at the University of Wisconsin) that related to freedom of speech issues. During this time I was also able to go to two webinars hosted by the National Association of College and University Attorneys. One focused on the new FERPA regulations and the other on Civility Codes and Freedom of Speech Issues.

In order to display my understanding of tort liability I will be attaching the answer to an essay I had to do as part of our final exam. However, I think that the most important thing that I have learned from class has been that higher education administrators should be proactive in developing policies that signifcantly reduce the chances of foreseeable harm and take additional steps to publish and distribute information about how students and community members can take additional steps to be more safe.

Through my work in conduct, I have gained a thorough understanding of the concepts of due process, how  Oregon Administrative Rules, Oregon Revised Statues, and other state laws dictate the matters that our office is involved in, and how federal laws like FERPA and freedom of speech affect my work. I have also gained an understanding of the concept of precedence and how it can greatly influence future decisions and actions that a university takes with regard to policy violations.

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Organizational Structures within Higher Education

Posted on March 7, 2009. Filed under: Uncategorized |

Here is half of my presentation for my Organization and Adminstration course on Organizational Structures and how they meet various critical issues in higher education. It provides a good outline of the various structures most commonly seen in student affairs. Along with some of the pros and cons to each structure.

student-affairs-models-and-critical-issues-in-higher

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Supervising and Evaluating Staff

Posted on March 7, 2009. Filed under: Uncategorized |

My greatest supervision and evaluation experiences have come from my time in AmeriCorps, my summer as a NODA intern, and my classroom evaluations through U-Engage and the CAMP learning community. Based on all of these experiences, here are my thoughts on the matter:

1. Create clear expectations and explain them in various ways: Some people need to see the evaluations in writing, some prefer if you talk with them about what is expected, some need checklists of what they are expected to do. Trying to accommodate people in this way will only help when it comes to supervising and actually evaluating them.

2. Explain why the expectations are there: Is it for the benefit of incoming students, in order to make the university look better, in order to meet particular goals or missions, for safety reasons, and/or for the person doing its professional development. One of my most challenging roles as a supervisor was feeling like I was constantly having to repeat myself. It has taken me time to realize that people are more likely to do something a certain way if they know the deeper reasoning for choosing that method. Just tell them “do this, don’t do this” doesn’t work.

3. Give timely feedback: It’s hard to remember the specifics of a situation unless you handle it quickly. It is also harder for someone to alter what they do if they’ve been allowed to do it for a long time. Feedback creates a framework for improvement. It doesn’t leave someone guessing about what they can do better and where they are succeeding.

4. Praise in front of others: Nothing makes people feel better and more motivated to keep reaching greater heights than being recognized for jobs well done.

5. Evaluate people on an individual basis: Whenever possible evaluate people based on where they started and how far they have come. Do not evaluate on the basis of where they stand within a larger group, this only creates competition and unfair comparisons among groups.

6. Show that you care about those you supervise and evaluate: supervision is not about watching over people or managing them; it’s about providing them with the knowledge, feedback and experiences to grow. Evaluation is not about pointing out where people are lacking; it’s about creating a framework for increased growth and recognition of ones strengths.

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Hiring staff

Posted on March 5, 2009. Filed under: Uncategorized |

I have not had the opportunity to hire a student staff or be on a hiring committee during my time at OSU. I have however, gone to numerous presentations for candidates of various jobs and have participated in a few interviews for the Area Coordinator position in UHDS. I was also able to participate in the hiring process for first-year orientation leaders during my undergraduate experience and recently go through helping to interview potential CSSA students for my GTA position. From these experiences, I learned two very important things, it is often just as important to find a person or people who can get along with one another and strive towards the same goal, than to hire a bunch of people who all have the highest credentials or in the case of student leaders, other leadership experiences. Particularly when creating a team of students to be orientation leaders, it was and is important to have leaders who are able to adapt to changes quickly and with good humor, who understand the important task being asked of them and the demands of being a professional among peers, and who stay positive even in the  face of adversity. In many respects I believe that the same qualities hold true in any job search. An understanding of student development theory, assessment, legal issues (the technical skills) are important but it is ultimately your “fit” within an organization that gets you the job. 

Important things to consider when hiring staff members include:

Being thoughtful with interview questions: If you want to gauge a particular skill or philosophy your candidates you must create clear, concise questions that leave room for creativity but are not ambiguous.

Considering whether the job will be a good move for the people applying: I remember during my time at CU hearing my supervisor say that there were lots of people would be good for the job, but the better question to ask is whether the job would be good for them.

Recognize voices, perspectives, professional experiences that the position has been missing in the past: Make a conscious effort to bring people with new viewpoints into the work. This doesn’t mean always hiring someone from outside the university or department, it just means finding people who are innovative and have ideas for improvement.

Be fair: give every candidate the same opportunity to earn the job. If you find yourself favoring someone or being unbias step away and analyze whether you can be objective or not.

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Budget matters

Posted on March 4, 2009. Filed under: Uncategorized |

While I am still waiting to take Budget and Finance in order to understand these concepts from an academic perspective, I can talk from experience about the way in which I have managed by personal budget as well as numerous project budgets with AmeriCorps.

In these situations, I have found it incredibly important to keep a very clear and accurate account of the budget that I start with, how and where I spent it, what (if any) results the spending produces, and how much money I have at the end.

Besides diligent bookkeeping, I have found it very helpful to brainstorm unexpected spending that may occur and ways in which these situations will be handled. Whether that means putting a small amount to the side for emergencies, knowing where I can go in order to access emergency funds, or ways that I can pool together with others to avoid major blows when times are tough.

In the tough economic climate we are facing it will be extremely important for higher education leaders to find ways to collaborate on projects with other departments and those outside of the campus community in order to complete projects and offer high quality services. It will also be important to find creative ways to save money, create programs that require fewer financial funds and find ways to fund program through grants and other methods. At the same time, I recognize that universities must still provide services of high quality if they expect to attract students and continue to receive tuition dollars accordingly. While money is not a fun subject to talk about, particularly when it is not abundant, I see the need to be upfront  and honesty with people concerning budget matters. Staying positive and maintaining a commitment to creative problem-solving is key.

More to come on this matter once I have started and completed Budget and Finance…

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Partnerships across cultural boundaries

Posted on March 4, 2009. Filed under: Uncategorized |

Having come to a more thorough, although no where near complete, understanding of how cultural differences can impact students’ academics, social lives, transitions to college, views of themselves and views of other people, I have a new sensitivity to how these differences can also influence partnerships among people. I think that one of the most harmful effects to a group can be the opinion by one or more people that their voices and their issues are not being heard. If others are ignoring a person simply because of their cultural identity the feelings of rejection or unimportance can be even worse and more deeply felt. As such it is important to create group expectations that allow people to speak from their experience, including their cultural affiliations. If student affairs professionals can recognize the major impact identity has on students; we must be equally willing to respect the voices of colleagues who can speak from experience about these issues and experiences.

While I originally thought that simply uniting around a shared mission was enough to negate cultural boundaries, I now realize this is not always the case. People’s cultural affiliations will continue to influence their work, priorities, and goals even after a central mission is decided upon. This is where the concept of appreciative leadership comes  into play: helping people use the strengths they bring to the table to help the group, instead of letting their weaknesses, which could include cultural differences, be viewed in a negative light.

Over the summer I partnered with academic advisors, orientation leaders and other administrators from diverse cultural backgrounds. I had to listen carefully to students and staff from underrepresented groups talk about their experiences on campus and in the community in order to serve new students more effectively. I also had to listen and engage my colleagues in conversations about their cultural identities in order to have a better understanding of where they were coming from and how that may or may not affect their work.

In another example, I worked with staff of the CAMP program to create a learning community for the Fall term. I had to rely on others to help me get a thorough understanding of the unique challenges that CAMP students face as they enter the university. I had some ideas for the class that I thought would help students to both succeed academically and also promote their families continued involvement with their academics. Although I felt confident in my ideas, I ended up running them by my supervisor in order to see if I was on the right track or missing the mark because of my limited knowledge about the students in my course.

Ultimately, I think that respect and humility when I didn’t understand something went a long way in making these partnerships across cultural boundaries successful.

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My New and Improve Leadership Style

Posted on March 4, 2009. Filed under: Uncategorized |

I recently looked back at my views and experiences with leadership before coming to CSSA and I say with absolute certainty that those feelings and experiences still influence my leadership to a great extent. I am still a leader who leads by example. While my original reasons for leading in this fashion were more simplistic, I didn’t want to come across as a jerk or as a boss, per se, I now realize a different reason for this facet of my leadership style. Part of what makes me a good leader is my ability to analyze problems or current issues and find ways to make things more efficient, more in line with a particular mission, more apt to serve more students or address certain issues, etc. I am also a kinestic learner; I need to engage in a particular act or program before I can understand it fully. Therefore it only makes sense that I would need to jump in and engage in the process with those I am supervising.

One of the leadership styles that I have tried to move away from in the past few years has been that of the pacesetter. I cannot expect that everyone will have the same work ethic or style, dedication, communication style, or demeanor as myself, nor can I assume that they will absorb mine as I “lead by example”. I think that my second year in AmeriCorps was a perfect example of how the pacesetter style not only failed to bring others in line with my standards, but that it eventually wore me down to the point where I could not even meet my own standards. Instead of setting the pace, I think it is much more important to meet people where they are, assess where they want to go and work as a team to develop ways to get there.

One of the faults I saw in my previous leadership style was not recognizing and respecting the diverse strengths that people I was leading were bringing to the table. I am now much more aware of the concept of appreciative leadership, where people are encouraged to capitalize on their strengths and use them to benefit themselves and the whole team. I think that this concept is particularly important to me as I look out at the myriad of issues faced by student affairs professionals and recognize that I will have to rely on others skills and knowledge in order to be successful in my work and my leadership positions. In addition, my time in graduate school has helped me to realize and more thoroughly appreciate the various learning styles, identities, and viewpoints that people bring to the table. More than ever before it seems like my leadership style should be equally reflective of my new appreciation for the diversity of human experience.

Lastly I wanted to address the concept of authentic leadership that I explored in both my Organization and Administration and Professional Development courses. For me authentic leadership is something that looks to the outsider as though it is effortless and natural. While my original inclination was to believe that it was so, I have had a change of heart. Those that practice authentic leadership, who seem genuine and thoughtful in everything they do are not simply better than the rest of us at it. Instead they are mindful of their own strengths, weaknesses, and bias. They are constantly assessing their own needs, goals and affinities and ensuring that they are in line with the mission, values, and goals of their institituion. They are graceful enough to admit when they need help or when they’ve made a mistake, adventurous enough to take on new challenges and never stop learning, confident enough to let others lead and praise others for jobs well done, and have enough perspective to laugh at the bumps in the road. This is my view of what makes an authentic leader, which is something I definitely aim to be.

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

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