Rear-view Mirror: Week Six

I started this week in Vegas. I’m ending it early in Corvallis, although I just read a particularly narrow-minded “Letter to the Editor” on a friend-of-a-friend’s Facebook page. “It hits the nail on the head!” (If you like one-sided polarized babble, it sure does.)

I’m going to try and not discuss the ensuing comment thread, in which backwards application of the perspective lends resulted in the conclusion of “My life experiences are different, and saying that only white people can be racist isn’t true, and liberals are mean.” Political polarization is really driving me nuts, so I’ll just continue in my brain-washed, overly-critical analysis of my actions and how they affect the world around me.

ANYWAY.

Week Six. Like I said, I started it in Vegas. In a nutshell, I took a vacation to the desert, completed an assignment ahead of time so that I could fully enjoy my vacation, dressed up as Scar from the Lion King, and laid out in the sun on Halloween. I got away from some of the stress I’m experiencing in Corvallis, and other than send a few emails and polish my paper on the plane, I was focused on the art of relaxation. It was wonderful. I even discovered my new favorite bar/nightclub, which is CatHouse, located in the Luxor Hotel.

Of course, I had to return to my “real life” on Tuesday, which meant hopping back on an airplane, driving back to Corvallis, and then attending a meeting and a three-hour class. I was surprisingly alert and ready-to-go, which meant I was able to glean quite a bit of insight from Tuesday’s lecture. We had a guest speaker talk about application of Jim Collins’ Good to Great to a community college context, as opposed to its original application to the business world. One of the biggest take-aways for me was the concept of the flywheel. Flywheels are apparently really difficult to get going, but once in motion, they really stay in motion. They’ve got a lot of energy behind them, in other words. (It’s also incredibly hard to get the thing to change directions once it’s going.) Applied to the concept of organization and administration, the flywheel demonstrates that it can be hard to get new ideas to catch on or for change to happen. However, it’s an optimistic view in that once something is in place and starts gathering energy behind it, it can be powerful.

The opposite of the flywheel is the doom loop, which is basically the depressing spiral of “oh nooooo” that can happen when something goes wrong. Simply put, avoiding thinking in doom loop ways. When I’m in a not-so-great state of mind, I do have a tendency to gravitate toward the worst-case scenarios and then spiral down from there. Usually, though, I feel as if I do a good job of finding other perspectives, allowing myself to reframe situations. (Thank you, communication degree!)

On Wednesday, I traveled to Salem to work on my internship project. I began interviewing student organization advisors, trying to understand what their experiences and current roles in advising student groups look like. Overall, I’m trying to compare the institution’s approach to advising student organizations with other colleges’, and from there, I’ll devise a set of best practices. I’ve only conducted two interviews so far, but they’ve both been great. It was particularly interesting because the two advisors I met with are so different. One has advising student organizations built into his job role, and he’s been in the field for many, many years. The other advisor advises one group on a voluntary basis, and he’s fairly new it, especially considering he took an unconventional route to working at a college. I’m excited to see where the rest of these interviews go.

Thursday was one of those days that wrapped up on a warm and fuzzy note. I teach a orientation class for transfer students, and over the off-week (we meet every other week), groups of students were assigned to interview a staff or faculty member. The goal was to get a better understanding of what that person’s role at the school was, where they came from, and how those staff/faculty members view themselves in relation to students. There was a good range in who was interviewed (one group even interviewed me), and what they shared with the class was just really cool, simply put. One group interviewed someone who had held nearly every kind of position possible at a college–including a custodial position. Other groups reported back about the advice their interviewees gave them. The emergent theme centered around how personable these folks were. Seeing that one of my major draws into student affairs was giving students the chance to relate with people–and not a faceless institution–I was very happy to see that some of that came out in the assignment.

And today? I cross-trained with my supervisor, sitting in on three academic advising appointments. As honors advisors, my colleagues have the unique role of working with students from different disciplines, figuring out schedules which will satisfy major requirements as well as UHC requirements. It can be confusing! However, advising appointments also allow some check-in time, which I could see serves as an important way of not only getting feedback on current courses, but a way to make sure a student is just doing okay. It was encouraging to see my supervisor fit in scheduling and well-being conversation into each appointment.

Speaking of well-being, I took a power nap this afternoon, and then I went to my last counseling (or “talking it out”) session for the term. Things are looking up, and my counselor encouraged me to get a jump start on job applications. We talked a lot about my vacation, as well as some of the conclusions I’ve come to. I told him that I had a break-through a few weeks ago when I found myself telling someone, partially out of frustration with my own situation, that “I came to Corvallis because I wanted to do something for myself. I didn’t want to follow a boy. I wanted to get an education for myself at the school that was the best fit for me. And that’s Oregon State. If I wanted to make dating a priority, I would have stayed in Seattle no matter what. If my relationship had failed there, I would have had plenty of other boys to choose from.” But it wasn’t my priority. My priority was myself.

It still is. It’s hard feeling isolated in Corvallis. I know this is a chapter that will close, though. And I know great things will happen in the next few months. Patience is my theme.

I used to tell people that when I grew up, I wanted to be great.

This is my chance.

I’m growing up. I will be great.

This has nothing to do with Vegas, but it's still amazing.

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