A Re-introduction

Posted on November 22, 2011. Filed under: Uncategorized |

I’ve been out of the blogging world for what seems like a lifetime now (spring 2009 was my last post). I originally used my blog as a way to organize and showcase my graduate school programs learning outcomes. I contributed because it was required. I enjoyed the process, but I realize that it was yet another task in a long progression of academic steps necessary within the field of higher education.

Now I see myself blogging for another reason, I’ve been in the field of higher ed for over 2 years now and I’ve seen a lot of stuff. Stuff that warms my heart and things that tear away at my insides. I’ve had conversations that bring tears to my eyes and struggled with personal and professional cognitive dissonances that have tangled my brain into something resembling a human pretzel. I have yet to deconstruct or solve many of the issues I have faced but I think it is finally time that I write. I will not write looking for answers; I will not write looking for feedback; I will write simply to provide digital breadcrumbs for my ongoing journey.

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Academic Integrity Seminar Assessment

Posted on April 11, 2009. Filed under: Uncategorized |

One of the goals of the Office of Student Conduct and Community Standards is to provide educational and developmental programs for students surrounding issues related to the student conduct code. One of the ways in which we do this is through the Academic Integrity Seminars I facilitate. During the 08-09 year we decided to do an online survey assessment of the seminar and subsequent homework assignment. The goals of the seminar are to provide students with a thorough understanding of OSU’s academic dishonesty policy, explain resources to help them with time management, proper writing and research techniques and other skills that help in the prevention of academic dishonesty, and do have them think about how academic dishonesty affects themselves and others.

The survey is given to students after they complete their one-on-one follow-up meeting with me. It is important to note that we have a number of students who end up missing our seminar and therefore complete a longer homework assignment and have a follow-up with me. During the 08-09 year only students attending the seminar have been surveyed, however the next time that this program is assessed, all students will be included in the results.

Here is the skeletal outline that I gave to StudentVoice in order to create the online survey: academic-integrity-seminar-survey

While data is still coming in for this assessment, several results are worth mentioning. Less than half of students indicated that they thought they were responsible for academic dishonesty before the seminar, where as after the seminar over 75% think they are responsible. I attribute a large portion of this change to the fact that in the seminar we discuss how OSU defines academic dishonesty and we also go through many scenarios which showcase how many things can be seen as academically dishonesty. Despite the seemingly positive results from these questions, I am left to wonder what else factors into whether or not students think they are responsible. For some it just might be that they are tried of fighting to have their case heard and for some they may have recognized their responsibility during a meeting with their instructor or department head. It would be good to follow this set of questions up with another one that asks students who changed their minds why they did so.

Over 80% of students indicate that the seminar made them think more about how their actions affect themselves and others. To me this indicated that the extra time that I spend talking about these issues in their follow-up meeting the group activity we do during the seminar are effective.

There was some talk of trying to create an online course that we could use instead of the in-person seminar. This was proposed because we run into several problems when planning the seminar. We don’t want them to fall during mid-term and finals seasons so we usually have to do them during the 3rd or 4th week of the term. Of course the majority of our reports come in after this and therefore a lot of our students end up going through the take-home assignment or attending the seminar months after their violation. At the current time, students are split down the middle in their interest for an online seminar. Given that this information is not conclusive and there are many reasons for maintaining a classroom seminar (as noted below), the office is going to put this idea on the back-burner for now.

When asked what they found the most useful many students talked about getting the chance to talk with other students about their experiences, gaining a broader perspective on the issue, hearing different viewpoints on how people view academic dishonesty and being held accountable to the larger group. Students also indicated that the homework assignment was useful and that they were given an opportunity to explain their situation and express the feelings about it. All of these responses provide support for maintaining the classroom style seminar.

For the most part the results that we got out of this survey confirm that the seminar meeting the learning objectives we have created. I realize that a question about whether or not students are being provided with helpful resources in order to avoid academic dishonesty in the future will be a good one to add if this survey is done again. Other than that I think that the way it is administered will stay the same and the format has secure backing from our current results.

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Distressed and Disruptive Students Presentation Assessment

Posted on April 11, 2009. Filed under: Uncategorized |

One of the goals for the Office of Student Conduct and Community Standards is to provide outreach and support for faculty and staff. One of the ways that we go about providing this outreach is through presentations to incoming graduate teaching assistants (GTAs) about the ways that they can recognize, interact with, and help distressed and disruptive students in their classes. This presentation is also given to faculty groups who request the information and often includes additional information from the Dean of Students Office, CAPS, Public Safety, DAS, and Student Health Services.

As part of our 08-09 assessment plan we decided to survey the incoming graduate students about their experience and learning during the presentation. We utilized Student Voice in order to do this survey and I am linking the skeletal outline ddsuvery that I created for them to use when creating our online survey. The goal of the presentation is to make instructors feel more comfortable and prepared to recognize and address disruptive and distressed students as well as more knowledgeable about the resources and support systems available to assist them in these situations at OSU. As such most of the questions pertained to finding out whether these learning outcomes were met. Given that we are always looking to improve the presentation and gain a new understanding of the up and coming challenges that instructors face we made sure to ask them what else they would have liked to hear about.

Dan and/or I gave the presentations to approximately five different groups of twenty incoming GTAs in mid-September 2008. We collected email addresses from participants and told them that we would be conducting a survey at the end of the term and would appreciate their feedback. The original hope was to provide GTAs with enough time to have potentially come in contact with a distressed or disruptive student and therefore have a greater context with which to answer the survey questions. I sent out an initial email with the survey link and had 9 respondents. I sent out a second email and also received a bit of support from one of the GTA supervisors in order to increase my numbers and in the end had 23 respondents, approximately a 25% completion rate.

The results from the first five questions were quantitatively positive. Over 90% Strongly Agreed or Agreed with the survey statements. As is to be expected the open-ended questions were a bit harder to lump together. When asked what parts of the presentation were most useful GTAs responded in three somewhat distinct ways: they were either glad to have information and resources to turn to, glad to hear that these students exists and that their actions are often not a result of poor teaching, or had not experienced any incidents yet and therefore did not comment on the most effective components. In regards to additional resources, a few GTAs recommended having some way of providing new and updated information to them regarding these types of issues throughout the year. One GTA suggested brochures, one a basic contact card (similar to the one we gave out), and one a website where they could find “tips” on handling distressed and disruptive students. The most frequent additional comment was that the presentation had been a long time ago and therefore the GTAs could not remember everything from it.

In terms of analyzing the results, it became clear that having a more ongoing and easily accessible way for staff and faculty to access this information would be helpful. We already have brochures and contact cards that we provide to people and there is a bit of information on the Dean of Students website that addressed distressed and disruptive students. However, it may be valuable to scan these documents onto our website for easy access and update them when necessary.

The one sure thing that we are going to change based on the survey data is the way in which we go about administering the survey. Next year we are going to get all of the GTA supervisors involved in helping us encourage people to respond to the survey. This should help to increase the number of respondents. In addition, we are going to send out a reminder to GTAs about the upcoming survey and get it to them a month after the presentation is given. While this may still not be enough time for them to have had many experiences with distressed or disruptive students, it will not create such a large lag time between presentation and assessment and this will hopefully lead to more accurate results.

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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.


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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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