Out of Left Field

“I’m a big fan of non-linear pathways.” – Ardith L. Feroglia, in many advising sessions

In that case, it should surprise no one that on October 2nd, I will leave my job at the University of Washington, take a week off, and then start a new position at Aduro in Redmond, WA. I accepted an account manager position and will continue to change lives (or crush dreams, maybe) by working on wellness programs and initiatives for clients (in a nutshell). I will also learn how to spell “initiatives” correctly on the first try.

Whoa, wait, hold up.

Did she just say she’s leaving higher education? As in, the realm for which she holds an advanced degree?

Oh. Well, yes. I will no longer be working within the context of a university; that part is true. I will be working in the private sector, and my line of work will be business-y and HR-y.


Oh, there’s always a “but.”

There are many ways to be a student affairs professional. Everything I learned about: involvement, engagement, transition, health, wellness, balance, advising, culture, context, intent, impact, and on and on and on–all of it still matters.

Is it not true that if we, as #SApros, believe that learning happens outside of the classroom, then learning should also (and does also) happen outside of the campus? And outside of the context of formal education? And that by teaching people to think and to learn that they will hopefully go on to do that forever? Well, at the least, I think these things are true.

I remain an educator, but just like I never envisioned myself as a traditional teacher, I don’t want to be boxed in by someone else’s definition of what an educator is.

There are many ways to stay authentic and true to myself. I learn, I read, I seek out information. I step outside of what’s known and what’s comfortable. I consider, I dialogue, I wrestle with uncertainty. I expand on past experiences and knowledge. I build. I grow.

This is not a departure, just like leaving Clark College wasn’t closing the book on something; it was the continuation of a journey. That’s what this is, too.

I’m forever thankful for the smart, thoughtful, and (dare I say it?) passionate colleagues I’ve met at the UW, as well as the opportunity to work at one of the most well-known and respected public institutions out there. Beyond that, I’m thankful to have met and worked with the some truly wonderful students; they will go on to do great things. (We are truly the #bestmajorever.) 

And now it’s time to shake things up again. So here’s to learning way too much about the commute to the east side, to digging up my sleeping business skills, to finding new problems to solve, to meeting new people, to learning new things, to furthering my professional growth, and to trying to just enjoy the ride. 

As the late Yogi Berra said, “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.”

A photo of two young academic advisers, one in active wear and the other in a pea pod costume, standing with a cardboard Michelle Obama

Hard to leave this behind!

The Return! Kind of.

“Hey, so, Ardith–what’s with the lack of blogging?”

Oh, jeez. Well, there are several reasons that I haven’t posted as much as usual.

The Wide World of Student Affairs and Higher Education
I’m still wrestling with what’s up with my professional life. As I’ve said a hundred times before, my job is fantastic and my team is great, but I’m missing something. I can’t pinpoint it yet, but I think it partially has to do with a need to be connected and engaged with more AAPI professionals more often, the desire for an outlet to explore research and theory, the negotiation of feeling like part of my professional network left me hanging, and wondering what to do about not feeling like a rock star and feeling more like I’m adequate and competent in my role(s). Turns out the working world isn’t full of fireworks all the time, and that the every day can be quite common. Making a difference in the world isn’t instant either; I feel like even though I knew that coming out of graduate school, actually experiencing the little victories and the little shifts is difficult. I feel like there should be more pizzazz, more “wow,” more so-much-other-stuff, and realizing that that isn’t real life is somewhat “bleh.”

However, it’s been quite the wild ride the last two or so years. Being involved with health-related programs as an adviser has helped me think more deeply about my own interests in health and wellness. I want my trajectory to have something to do with that, although there are several different pathways I could pursue. That’s hopeful. I have to remind myself that a career is something to think about longitudinally, and these ideas take time to develop. I don’t have an end point; you won’t find me stating flat-out, “I want to be Dean of Student Life/President of a college.” That’s not how I roll; it never has been. I’m still learning to negotiate uncertainty and embrace it. Part of me wants to know where I’m going, but the other part of me just wants to wander and love all that comes with that.

I’m still playing with the idea of getting my doctorate. It could be that I set my target entry date as soon as Autumn 2016; it could be that I change my mind and delay for any number of reasons. Right now, my short list includes universities far, far away, as well as the University of Washington. I feel good when I think about the programs (programmes) I’m eying. Now to marinate on some research questions. Before I make any decisions, a few other things need to become more clear. Again, I’m anxious. What’s next? Oh, calm down, self; you’ll get there soon enough.

I’m still doing that thing with the sweating and the barbells and the fitness. I like it a lot. I’ve now progressed into “Intermediate” territory, where I’m seeing slower progress in my numbers, but I’ve also started to incorporate more advanced skills. Ring dips and pistols and full range-of-motion GHD sit-ups are all in my arsenal now; even double-unders are starting to come along with the switch to a new jump rope. Now I’m trying to figure out where I want to go next. I’ve gotten into better shape, that’s for sure, so do I aim for recreational competitions? (Yes; actually, that’s what I’m looking towards now.) Setting this goal of competing regularly in local competitions means I’m intentionally working on weaknesses. This means putting in extra work in the gym, incorporating some extra drills and skills, although fitting it all in with a full-time work schedule can be tough. Making the time, though, is worth it.

I’m also starting to explore my interest in coaching, which is no surprise given my inclination towards the helping professions. I’ve been demoing skills for the new members, while also watching and learning how our trainers work with different clients. I hope to participate in a Level One certificate class within the next year in order to bolster my skill set. I’ve enjoyed introducing people to CrossFit, and it’s kind of a nice full-circle to be someone who new people can approach to ask a question. This is really a role in which I fully play out my co-learner approach, reminding them I am by no means an expert, but that I’m someone who has been enthusiastic about my own learning and applies that to their learning, too. I’ve been told I move well, which is absolutely the result of my mediocrity coming into CrossFit and the need to establish strong basics. I hope to carry that forward because–let’s be honest–I’m having a ton of fun so far. I also have to say that my involvement in CrossFit has bled over into my professional interests, and it is shaping how I approach future work and trajectory. Again, I’m a bit antsy about how everything will play out in the long-run, but I’m enjoying the ride thus far.

Have I been absolutely the worst in terms of providing you all with juicy stories about being single in the city? More or less, yes. You all had high hopes for me!

And behind the scenes, I did fine. I went on a few dates here and there early on in 2014, and nothing really came of it. The thing is, that was totally fine by me. When I moved to Seattle, I spent a lot of time transitioning into my new job, my new house, my new gym, and my city that I had left behind in 2010. That was my focus, and it went quite well. I reconnected with friends, I traveled, I re-established myself. I didn’t have time for dating, which was partially a carry-over from #bestsummerever. I was open to it, though, and by no means had I given up on dating; it just wasn’t the right time.

2014, I met some fellows that piqued my interest. I went on some dates, felt things out, pursued when I thought necessary, and backed off when it didn’t feel right. I did the “grown-up” thing and politely declined some dates and didn’t string people along. And it all felt pretty good. At some point in 2013 and 2014, the nagging feeling of, “Oh my gosh, what’s wrong with me? Why am I still single?” dissipated. I was finally free of this unreasonable anxiety that was doing me no good.

And in that freedom, I was able to clear my head and give myself the ability to take notice of someone worth my time.

That’s all I’m going to say on that front right now, except for… he’s really great.

In Conclusion
Things are going! Things are happening! I have to go tend to dinner! Stay tuned for more things and stuff!

But Why Not…

“Okay, #SAchat. I have something to admit: I feel like I’ve let you down. I feel cynical and uninspired, and I’m uncertain how to change it.”

I sent out the above tweet earlier today. I sent it out right in the middle of a weekly #SAchat happening, but it wasn’t directly related nor triggered by the conversation. In fact, it wasn’t even related nor tied to particular #SAchat threads. No, it’s something I’ve been sitting on for quite some time, and I can’t even pinpoint how long ago that I started to feel this way.

Since making the move from being a student affairs graduate student to being a full-time professional, I’ve seemingly disengaged, and I’ve done so much, much more than I expected. As a #SAgrad, I was thirsty for knowledge, to learn, to immerse myself in the information about student affairs and higher education. I was ready to be the catalyst that sparked students’ “a-ha!” moments. And in many ways, today–I am. Sometimes those moments are difficult, like when I have to gently explain that the major for which I advise is not a viable option. And other times, those moments are wonderful, like when I can help a student reframe what it is about their current major that will help them in the long-run, especially when they can’t quite connect the dots between the “now” and the “yet to come.”

I have made new connections. I have strengthened many existing connections. I’ve lost several connections, too, though, and I was saddened to see how far removed I had become from several specific contacts. They used to be major drivers behind why I was pursuing my degree, and they believed that I would go out and do great things in the field. And to see that they’re just now on the peripheral of my professional life makes me step back and wonder if I’ve slipped into mediocrity. I feel like a promising college quarterback who went on to the NFL and just did… alright. Not bad, not outstanding, but just… okay. “Meh.”

I like to think that I do a good job. In my recent six-month review, I was pleased to see that I could identify where and how I’d fulfilled my job description and many of the goals I set out for myself. I presented at a national conference. I’m gearing up to present at another conference next week. My students wave and smile when they see me (hey! They know me! They like me!).

But even then, I feel like I’m sitting on my own potential. You’ve probably all seen how rabidly obsessed I became with CrossFit. Why does this hobby, activity, sport, lifestyle get to me like nothing else really has? Why am I writing about my fitness non-stop but not the profession that I spent more than two years writing about non-stop?! For starters, I can point to the team aspect and the part where I’m getting in the best shape of my life.

Beyond that, CrossFit is something that is truly difficult for me. CrossFit is actually something that I’m bad at, despite all my posts and affection for it. I suck at CrossFit. I was worse when I began, and I’m better now, but I have a very long road ahead of me. In other words, it challenges me like nothing ever has before. But I see what I’m learning, I can apply what I’m learning to many other aspects of my life, and this silly sport might be just what I need to kick my own butt into high gear.

I’m talking beyond fitness. The thing about what I do professionally is that I like it, I feel like I do make a difference, and I feel like I am constantly applying theory into practice. But it just doesn’t feel like enough. I don’t mean that I don’t have enough to do; I have many projects to balance, and I enjoy the variety of things that I do in my capacity as an adviser and “curriculum support specialist” (we never settled on an official “ampersand” part of my Academic Adviser title, but this gets at it).

What I mean is, if my dad were still alive, he would probably lecture me on not challenging myself enough. He would be telling me to write more. He would be telling me to travel more. He would be telling me to go out there, ask questions, and use my noggin. What I’m basically getting at is, I would continue the good work I do now but take it a step further. He would back me all the way if I said, “Then I suppose I need to pursue my doctorate.” I want to feel the same drive about my career that I do about my fitness. Staying hungry. Wanting more.

I am beginning to think that “research” is when I thrive. I say “when” because I mean the act of formulating a question, seeking out the information, crafting the information, writing the information, sharing the information, and then repeating the process… actually, I just got really into what I just said there. That’s… that’s where I’m supposed to fit in.

CrossFit, for example, fascinates me. The premise of it is basic enough: high-intensity, constantly varied, etc. and so forth. In terms of what it does to my body physically, I’m not super-interested in that. What I’m interested in, though, are ideas of:

Why do I, personally, keep going back for more? The workouts are high-intensity, and I routinely think, “I hate this. What am I doing?” What’s at work, psychologically?

Who are the people that keep going back for more? Do we share common themes (e.g., extrovert/introvert; team-sport background; social interaction needs, wants, ideals; motivation)?

Who are the people that aren’t participating? Who doesn’t the model work for, in terms of who starts and then subsequently stops (e.g., personality type; athletic background; motivation)? Who is not starting and what are the barriers (e.g., socioeconomic status [Is CrossFit a grittier substitute for the country club?]; cultural norms)–and this question in particular then also feeds into deeply-rooted sociological issues that aren’t necessarily going to be changed by CrossFit or the athletes… but they are things I think of.

Pair this with my interest in holistic wellness and spiritual well-being, stemming from graduate school. If learning happens outside the classroom, then learning also happens outside the walls of institutions. What can I do with this? What are the burning questions I’m trying to get at here?

Well, I’ve got a few questions I’m developing. Now… I guess it’s a matter of starting the research. Slowly, with Google Scholar and whatnot.

When I came out of graduate school, I had a very clear of idea of where I wanted to begin my journey: academic advising. However, I had no clue where I wanted that path to go next. Framed just in terms of administration, I couldn’t pinpoint very many things. I thought I wanted to avoid the hard work of more advanced education, as well. I thought I wanted to avoid pigeon-holing myself into scare tenure-track faculty roles. I thought I wanted to avoid further student debt.

But then I got to thinking about all the people who believe in me (and those that would, if they were still here). And they would believe wholeheartedly that by going after the scary things, the impossible things, that beyond the odds, I would find my place.

So… just a few final thoughts to wrap up my long-drawn-out story of why I’ve been so “blah” lately and why my #SApro and #SAchat friends may have been worried that I’ve fallen off the face of the earth, never to emerge again. I’m not jaded; I’m hungry for more knowledge. I’m not depressed; I’m not pushing myself like I should be. I’m not discontent with where I’ve landed; in fact, it’s given me the clarity and the setting I needed to start to conceptualize my potential. And this will all take time and planning and the occasional swift kick from friends and family.

I’ll leave you with this tonight, just to chew on it:

Successful people pursue hard things. Unsuccessful people avoid them.” – Greg Glassman (via way of a friend)

“‘…why not you?'” – Russell Wilson




Look at This ENFJ

You all are probably aware that I am an extrovert (or extravert). I am fascinated with personality types and profiles, and I found myself searching for a share-worthy profile of an ENFJ.

I took the personality test again to confirm. My Judging/Perceiving scores always come back borderline. Historically, “J” wins out on the tests, but usually only by a few points. I lean towards “J” because I like goal-setting and I like having a framework. Within that framework, I find freedom and spontaneity. I have been taught that more demonstrated responsibility leads to greater flexibility.

“[ENFJs] expect the best not just from themselves, but from others as well, and may find themselves disappointed when others are not as genuine in their intentions as the ENFJ.”

So, if you’ve ever wanted to more about me from an outside point-of-view read on.

Envision Everything

The thing about my life right now is that it’s happier and stabler than it has been in quite some time. Friday, I posed some “new pro” questions that I’ve been pondering for awhile, and I’m glad that I have garnered some support, especially in terms of justifying personal time and focus.

One of the things I have been doing is working on my health and fitness. I joined a CrossFit gym (if you hadn’t noticed), and I find it refreshing that I’m not being inundated with culty messages like I’ve seen in many a simple Google search for CrossFit. What matters to me is feeling as if I am part of a team, and that it is a team that wants me to grow and hit those milestones at my own pace.

I finally read the Vision and Mission Statement for my gym the other day. Everything written resonated with what I’d learned to practice as a student affairs graduate student, although this time, it was about fitness and not my chosen profession. Take a look. Does anything sound familiar?


Provide a physical training facility in which individuals are without fear, without ego, and come together to form a community of confidence and compassion.

Turn weakness into strength, train for chaos, and generally physically prepare for anything, anywhere, at anytime.


To evolve the individual, physically and mentally, and infuse them with discipline, awareness, and humility so that they personify the highest ideals of integrity, strength, and courage and stand as equals in a family of fearless individuals (About CrossFit HEL, 2012).”

Maybe that’s why this gym fits. Maybe that’s why I can challenge myself to try new skills, and even if I’m not that great at those skills, I have done something new and I know where to go next. What I learned as a graduate student is not relegated to just the world of student affairs or employment. If I am mindful in applying my life lessons learned within or outside the SA world, I will do great things.

The questions I asked on Friday to seasoned professionals and the questions I’ll ask during a new workout both function in similar ways. I’m looking for direction. I’m looking for support. And–I’m looking for a voice to say, “Try this.”

So, I will do the least I can do. I will listen. And I will learn.

Grey Friday

I’m still in my pajamas, and the only shopping I did today was from the comfort of my own couch. I bought a LivingSocial deal for two pairs of yoga pants. $29 for $119 worth of athletic gear? Okay. I needed long stretchy pants that I can wear to my workouts anyway.

It’s raining outside, but I’m okay with that for now.

I’ve been doing some preliminary research into doctoral programs, even though I don’t imagine I’ll have the resources and/or the need to pursue a PhD or EdD within the next decade. New Zealand’s University of Auckland is a front-runner, given their pricing model and flexibility in studies, but University of Newcastle has my ultimate reach program, the Integrated PhD in Education and Communication. Of course, there are also several California schools and some other institutions in far-off corners of the world that I’ve identified (in the meantime). I know what it means is trying my hardest to attend and present at conferences, identifying burning questions to drive research and innovation, and staying on top of developing my connections and being aware of trends in higher education.

Part of the trouble as a new professional, though, is maintaining mentoring relationships and moving forward with a different support system, now that I’m out of graduate school. It kind of feels like I’m a big sister that is currently being overshadowed by the arrival of my new, cuddly student affairs siblings (a.k.a., the new SA grads). My needs are still attended too, but there’s an expectation of independence and proficiency that I haven’t yet developed.

Here’s what I specifically need help with:

– maintaining my involvement in professional organizations. I can’t afford my membership fees for NASPA or ACPA right now because my school isn’t affiliated with either, and $240+ for a $100 discount on the “maybe one conference” I can attend isn’t going to work.
– finding conference presentation opportunities. My other SA pals seems to be getting their foots into the doors as far as regional and national conferences go; why am I missing a lot of that same information? I’ve asked several times for resources on SA and related conferences, but have found exactly one database.
– solidifying mentors in the field outside of my immediate work environment. Most of my support personnel have new cohorts filled with shining stars to help out and I don’t want to appear needy, but… I am needy. I still need my hand held in some ways, and I don’t want to tax my colleagues’ patience in my new workplace. (Granted, I have great support at work! I’d just like to keep a strong, diversified network, you know?)
– lending my support to other new professionals and graduate students. I feel a bit disconnected, so what can I do to give back to a “new generation,” so to speak?
– getting started in research when I’m outside an academic program. This goes with solidifying mentors, I think. What should I do after I identify those fields of inquiry? Invade a school library silently? Lurk on the internet?

Any insight will be much appreciated. These questions and needs have been formed over the past five or so months, and I don’t want to lose my momentum now that I’ve made it into the student affairs field.

And in other news–I hope you all had a lovely holiday. 🙂 Now it’s time to reunite with some grad school friends, funny enough.

Catching My Breath

What a whirlwind week. (Hello, alliteration.)

First thing’s first, since my last Wednesday post, here’s what I’ve done:

Thursday, 8/9/12
Run – Couch to 5k: Week 2, Run 1

Friday, 8/10/12
80’S NIGHT! DANCING! And walking 8 blocks in stilettos.

Saturday, 8/11/12
Lots of walking at the Alberta Street Fair (to counter delicious treats at the Garlic Festival and the Street Fair)

Sunday, 8/12/12
Low HIIT 20 Routine

Tuesday, 8/14/12
Run/Walk: Couch to 5K – Week 2, Run 2 (a little bit behind, but happy to still be working through the routine and cross-training)

I’m feeling more energetic (not to be confused with “awake”), and I’ve noticed that some of my work skirts even fit better. I can kind of see my abs again, but they’re still hiding out under the “winter layer” I packed on last year.

I bought a CrossFit discount coupon for six classes. With my schedule, it looks like I’ll at least have a month and a half of Saturday morning work-outs planned out. While this particular box is far from my home, it will hopefully be the catalyst I need while I still work to save enough money for my neighborhood gym/box.

I missed my Friday post, but that’s because it was a particularly fun day. I took a nap after work, then dressed up to go dancing at 80s Night. High heels, leg warmers, a stretchy little skirt, and a cute top were my weapon of choice. I decided to take public transit, though, and the one thing I hate about summer is getting dressed up and having to go outside looking like a street walker. Night club and related clothes just don’t translate into broad daylight or even twilight.

And because I didn’t want to wait half an hour at a sketchy bus stop for my second bus, I actually decided to walk the remaining 8 blocks in the aforementioned outfit. Again, sunlight, clubbing-esque outfit, and city sidewalks means I got some very odd looks, but all was well once I reached the Crystal Ballroom and met up with friends.

The rest of the weekend was full of fun, from the North Plains Garlic Festival and the Alberta Street Fair. I had the chance to meet some of Snugz’s friends, and he got to meet several of mine. There was even swimming later on!

The mindful part of this week comes from practicing balance in this new professional life. I’m easing into the routine of scheduling time for friends and nurturing a new relationship, as well as being more intentional about scheduling time for fitness and rest. This time around, as opposed to 2008/2009, I am ready to be practicing this type of intentional life. I had the chance to re-visit my spontaneous college lifestyle now and then in grad school, and the 2011 summer really gave me the chance to start making the transition from “college kid” to “young professional,” more so than I did several years ago.

It feels good to be putting into practice the lessons I learned.

You know what’s great?

The feeling when you remember that you’ve exceeded all your own expectations in absurd and bizarre and wonderful ways.

I can’t trade the mistakes I’ve made for anything else in this world. The resilience I display now is only the product of being let down and letting myself down over the years–paired with the very real experience of…

I was on a roll here, but then I noticed a spider on my wall, so I had to take care of it since I’m pretty terrified of spiders.


What I was getting at is this:

As a twenty-something, unmarried, just out of graduate school, still renting, carrying student debt, just getting back on her feet after several successive relationship fails, etc. and so forth, I am doing an outstanding job of navigating through this life. I could be in better shape, and I could be a better cook. I could volunteer more, and I could write more. I could pick up the performing arts more, and I could take better care of my health.

But overall, I am not failing.

As one of my good friends has recently said, “I have the life I never knew I wanted. God is good.” (Time to plug her blog: So You Wanna Be a Mom; we’ve been friends since 2nd grade, and we are doing different things, and she’s got to be one of the brightest and fieriest spirits this world has seen.)

And it’s true. I never knew I would take to the “big city” the way I have. I never knew I would fall in love with education all over again. I never knew I would rather work in public service than have a yacht. I never knew I would actually get to travel the world.

I caught up with a good friend tonight, after nearly three years of disjointed separation. We have both ended up in lives we never knew existed. And even so, we have ended up happy–not perfect, but happy with the unknowns and the variables we never knew existed.

There have been times in life that I’ve been close to giving up. I’ve been close to throwing in the towel and saying, “This is as good as it gets.” But I realize, day by day, that life doesn’t work that way, unless you let it. If I continue to seek out opportunity, and if I continue to find joy and laughter in the ordinary, and if I continue to explore–through travel and writing and conversation–then I am on my way upwards.

I’ll leave you with one last thought for tonight…

“Life is what you make it. Always has been, always will be.” – E. Roosevelt (or so the internet says)

Goodnight, so long, and until next time.

Hoppin’ the Fence

On Friday, April 13th (Friday the 13th!), I defended my graduate portfolio. I gave a public presentation, with the audience consisting of my graduate committee, friends, classmates, and colleagues. I was much less anxious than I usually am in similar presentation/performance situations, primarily because I had a massive reality check on Thursday night when I was nearly t-boned at an intersection; things have a funny way of realigning themselves in terms of priorities. Regardless, I felt ready to profess how I have met my nine CSSA competences over the past two years.

While I was later critiqued for my use of Keynote and bullet points by my committee–who believe I can break out of the presentation box (and granted, I had thrown around the idea of interpretive dance or a skit instead of the traditional slide show)–I gave what several colleagues declared a polished and informative presentation. It was the first time I had been in front of such an audience in several years, and although I have given many in-class presentations throughout graduate school, I do have to admit that I felt rusty, especially when it came to managing my non-verbals. (Luckily, I think I did a fair job of controlling my use of “filler” words, so if someone was keeping tabs on how many times I said “umm,” hopefully that tally was rather low.) My timing device for this time around was a soundtrack; this was the first attempt at using something like this to supplement the atmosphere. The volume should have been lowered, and in the future, I would anticipate using this approach dependent on the mood I need to create. For something as personal as a portfolio defense, using “theme songs” of sorts may be okay, of course with more finesse.

Once I got talking, what I said came naturally. It is rather hard, in my opinion, for myself to flub a presentation that is so highly autobiographical. I had outlined my presentation in such a way that I gave myself room to expand and build as new thoughts came to mind, and I framed the defense in a way that allowed me to relay the story of a soul-searching young woman finding her way to a brand new career path. I did my best to main eye contact and address the whole crowd, while using hand gestures to illustrate and accompany my words. However, due to my lack of note cards, I situated myself in one stationary spot, which is a big “no-no” in solo presentations; I should have remembered that I do well in front of an audience, but I do much better when my performance lets me utilize the full “stage.” Although I was technically a more proficient musician (solo piano and clarinet), I felt much more in my element as a dancer and cheerleader. Believe me, I work much better when I’m allowed to move around, so I anticipate building in some literal “wiggle room” into my next presentations.

The questions posed to me during the open Q&A time allowed me to further expand and clarify on some thoughts. This portion of the defense was more fun than I expected, considering that I do not view myself as the most articulate “on-the-spot” thinker. I am a processor, which is why my writing tends to be much more polished than my in-class thoughts and discussions. I was challenged to think about involvement in professional associations based outside of the United States; while I am aware of organizations, such as CTLPA (Caribbean Tertiary-Level Personnel Association) and IASAS (International Association of Student Affairs and Services), I know there are more organizations in which I can become involved. Perhaps I could look at the organizations based out of Australia and the UK, as I have a high interest in pursuing doctoral studies in those areas (SURPRISE, everyone!), as well as organizations based in Southeast Asia and the Philippines. This international leaning and focus has not been abated, only amplified, and that makes me so excited to look globally, even though I will be based in Portland, OR in the meantime. (Which I am also very excited about.)

My committee gave me excellent constructive criticism. I have not always been the most receptive to criticism, which has been a challenge since I was a wee one–it probably began around age five when I started taking piano lessons and hated the feeling of not “getting it right.” I acknowledge it is something I am working on and have seen a vast improvement in growing and learning from what I am told. For example, Eric challenged me to never use bullet points again in a presentation. How will I accomplish that? I can anticipate using related photos without text while speaking in an animated way. I come from a performance background and love being the comedic center of attention. Eric also said I am at my best when I am both goofy and academic. That makes me very happy, because I have kind of gotten into the swing of separating my professional/academic self from the rest of me, and now that I have “permission” to combine those two sides even more, I have a feeling my creative nature will lend itself to discovering new approaches to work, research, and presentation.

I was also challenged to think about my role and future roles in a leadership position. I have collective tendencies, partially due to the way I was raised and my Filipino heritage. Those tendencies can be viewed as weakness in the individualistic American culture, and I need to navigate expectations of what leaders are to many others, while utilizing my leadership style. In a similar way to how introverts are often expected to perform as extroverts in society (especially the world of business), a collective leader must perform as an individualistic leader–to a degree. It is important for me to distinguish the difference between being a leader and wielding power. As a leader, I analyze the big picture then the details, and from there, I identify which team members are best suited to assist or even head up other tasks. This is something I did when I was put in charge of my college cheer squad; there is nothing fluffy about running an athletic team–especially one in which risk of injury is so inherent–when you are a peer leader. It is tough work that requires understanding weak spots in the program, setting forth goals and outcomes, and getting people to buy into your vision. In the same way, future work in leadership roles will require me to step up and build upon these experiences and skills, while being accountable to students.

Possibly the hardest part of the defense was the waiting. My committee deliberated for quite awhile with me out of the room, reviewing what I had written and composed, what I had presented, and other aspects of the defense and portfolio. As I said upon leaving the room, I had not been that nervous since cheerleading try-outs my freshman year of college; I had given my all and it was up to the judges to decide whether my efforts were worthy of recognition. During my committee’s deliberation, I went from “I got this!” to “Oh no, this is taking much longer,” to “Okay, what do I do if they don’t pass me today? How do I collect myself to give it another shot,” to “Wow, I really drank way too much water earlier. Do I have time to run to the bathroom?” As Dave, my advisor, had said, “Once you feel like you can’t take it anymore, we’ll call you back in.” And that is when I was summoned back into the room to debrief a bit longer, clarify on even more points–and ultimately, be informed that I passed (with the caveat that I compose a reflection on the defense).

What I learned from my defense is… I am still learning. I will continue to learn–about myself, about my field, about my students. I have a lot of work to do, and I will only get better by stepping up and taking on new projects and roles that challenge me (like my dual roles in the NASPA IEKC now, as well as my full-time job), finding presentation outlets and actually presenting in front of audiences, and extending and broadening my literature and research bases (and then contributing). I also realize that I value my personal well-being and the time to reflect more than I assumed before; I must continue to incorporate these elements into my everyday being so that I can be healthy and happy (and productive). Essentially, it would be a failure for me to stop and say, “Good enough,” and declare my work and learning over.

Not so.

As I step into my new role as an advisor, I embrace the opportunities I will have to see first-hand how the organization operates, how I fit in, how I best assist the student population, and how change happens. I look forward to this new environment as the next place in which to cultivate my spirit and to continue my transition.