One For the Books

Wednesday was the big day.

…no, I didn’t get married.

No. Wednesday was my NACADA presentation. My colleague and I presented on a topic that roughly translated into, “Why new professionals should not be afraid to think about two-year colleges as employment options.”

We got saddled with the 8AM slot on the last day of the conference, which is well-known as one of the most challenging times for these types of conferences. However, my co-presenter and I took it in stride, knowing that this could open the door for good conversation and involvement with attendees. We did end up with a small crowd, albeit a crowd which was larger than our anticipated audience.

We were able to do audience introductions, to be able to discern the backgrounds our attendees brought. We were able to give people at least ten minutes to discuss and develop strategies for recruitment, outreach, and visibility near the end. And it gave us the chance to comfortably share our stories as advisors.

We went over the research we had done, addressed misconceptions about two-year colleges and how typical job gripes may confound the misconceptions. I talked about how my fellow grad students expressed hesitation and even intimidation when thinking about taking on employment within the two-year colleges. My co-presenter talked about how he is finding greater purpose in the two-year, even with some of the unique challenges he faces in his particular geographic area.

During the discussions, we had participants consider which factors they think could benefit grad students and new professionals. We had them come up with ideas, and the most common one was “internships.” And since most were already professionals, that meant getting the message out to the target group and telling them, “We have opportunities. We want you to come check this out. Come shadow. Come intern.”

And at the end, one participant came up to me to say that she really enjoyed the session and wanted to keep in touch to further the idea of grad students actively exploring the two-year option.

Of course, beyond my presentation, I had the opportunity to connect with other advisors/advisers and professionals, as well as attend quality sessions. I heard about the great things people are doing to help students in transition, as well as how to frame difficult conversations in specific contexts (e.g., pre-health advising, which is apparently what I keep finding myself doing). There were presentations that will be helpful as I [hopefully] advance my career, which will help me effectively supervise and take on new roles. And there were presentations which confirmed that I am, as a new professional, doing the right things by continuing to learn, continuing to stay curious, and continuing to improve how I approach my work.

Special thanks to all of you who helped get me to the conference. I know some of you contributed even though you are trying to save up to get to an event of your own, and that means so much to me. You have earned a virtual hug and a virtual high-five, although many of you have received hugs and high-fives in real life since then. Thank you!

Several folks contributed the amount to earn a written thank-you on the blog. So, thank you to:


And there were a few souls who trusted and believed in me enough to earn a video shout-out.

Overall, I am happy with the way it went. It was a presentation that came out of love for the two-years and the realization that not everyone gives the two-years a thought because of misconceptions and because of intimidation. It came together by way of a presenter matching tool and crowd-sourcing the funds to make it to the conference.

In other words… we did it! Thank you again, and what I took away from the conference and will bring back to my current position is so valuable. And what I took away from the crowd-sourcing part of this effort is also valuable, as you all helped me to take this next step, realize a dream, and do something that hopefully will inspire others.


The other day, I was buying coffee at the bookstore on my campus. A student was next to me, checking out the refrigerated lunches. He turned and saw me, then said, “Ardith? Hey! You’re my advisor!” I recognized him, and asked him how he was doing. He responded, “I’m doing well, but my time at Clark is done. I just got accepted to Eastern Washington.”

To which I simply raised my hand, and we high-fived.

Yeah, I like what I do.

I Didn’t See You There

Sorry, sorry, sorry. I’m working on a piece that’s been rolling around this head of mine for some time. Between working and working out and spending the weekend getting sun and BBQ’ing, I haven’t had time to share thoughts on education or working out or LIFE lately.

One cool thing that I do want to share, however, is that my GoFundMe project is live. For those that do not know, I was accepted to present at the national NACADA (National ACademic ADvising Association) conference in October. Based on budgetary restrictions at my Washington state institution, however, I am not being funded by the school to attend and present. But, because this is my very first national presentation, I’m going to find a way to get there. What I’m attempting right now is to crowd-source the funding to cover my registration fee, flight, and accommodations. The goal is $950, with a current amount of $110 raised.

I’ll be posting here about why I’m presenting, why this is important, and other cool things. So, if you are keen to learn more (and hopefully to chip in a bit for this amazing opportunity!), click on the GoFundMe link on the right. There are reward and thank-you levels for different dollar amounts, but you can donate what works for you.

(Also, if I see you in real life, I also have the ability to collect donations less than $5. The site only allows for $5+.)

Thank you so, so, so much in advance. You really have no idea what the support means!

We Made It

Holy mackerel. The first week of Winter Quarter at Clark College is done.

The registration cycle is always a trying time, but today was definitely a reaffirmation that I do what I do because I love it. The day started off kind of rocky, with freezing fog ruining my morning commute. I slid around my turns on the way to the freeway–and once I reached I-5, it was a parking lot due to at least one accident. Once I got to the staff meeting, though, things smoothed out.

One of my colleagues led a diversity training portion today, and in a funny coincidence, I ended up with two other Oregon State CSSA alums in my randomly-numbered-off small group. It was good to discuss issues of power and privilege again, to be reminded that we have a lot of [good] work to be done in making education equitable.

Then, during my advising sessions, I got to have several good developmental conversations with students. I found myself showing them resources and helping them start the wheels turning in regards to what comes next. Whenever I can help a student think about a situation with a different perspective, I feel as if I’m doing something right. I sure hope so.

Anyway, I made it through another “start of the new quarter.” It’s time to regroup, polish things up, and prepare for the next round.



Also, I found out I have to sit in the middle seat for a cross-country flight next month. Both. Ways.




Monday Madness

Today was the first day of classes at Clark. Although I was rightfully anxious about finding parking and navigating a slew of “Add/Drop” requests, the day went fairly well. I arrived early and found parking. I snagged a new planner and handbook for my reference. I enjoyed a Cupcake Royale salted caramel cupcake that I brought home with me from Seattle.

And I did everything I could to make the overwhelming first day a bit better for others.

The most stressful part of my day was when a student checked in and requested me as her advisor. She had been told second-hand that I was the person that could answer all her questions. She had some doozies, most of them encompassing, “What would you do if you were me?”

I answered as I technically should have, explaining statistics and policies. However, I interjected my own personality. I added in some academic counseling. I added some encouragement. I did what I could to make our conversation as human and real as possible.

That’s what I do every day, for all my students. I had a student ask me if I had angry students in my cubicle all the time. I thought about it, and primarily, I see students who just need someone to help find the answers to their questions. I get my frustrated students, yet often, I get it. I have been there. I have been angry and upset with the system (in fact, I’m so incredibly frustrated with Direct Loan Servicing for my own loans right now, it’s not even remotely funny). In many cases, it’s about being able to empathize and meet them where they are, even if it’s not all sunshine and rainbows.

I find myself tired some days, although more often than not, it’s because I’ve been exerting natural energy. I am energized by the positive people around me, and I share that with whomever I can. Some days, my energy net balance is positive, and some days, it’s lower. I never know how things will go, and that’s okay. Variety is not just okay, it’s part of life, and it’s to be embraced.

I remind myself that if I didn’t like working with people, I would have sought a data-entry job a long time ago. Nothing good truly finds its way to me easily, and again, that’s okay.

It’s the perseverance that counts, and I will do my best to share that feeling with each and every one of my students.

Even if it means that I have to tell twenty of them on Thursday, “No, seriously. The class is closed, and you need a different one.”

Happy Fall, everyone. Now that we quarter-system schools are back in session, it’s official time for the seasons to turn. 🙂

The Working World, Version 2.0

Today concluded my first (almost) full week back in the working world. I did have Tuesday off, but it was by no means a break, since I had to drive at least an hour and a half to get to my day of classes. I’m currently tucked up in a blanket and have been watching How I Met Your Mother and Doctor Who for the past couple of hours, along with reading Mockingjay. Now, while I may seem rather boring and bland for a Friday night, I think it’s perfectly acceptable to veg out since I’ll be heading up to Seattle in the morning for a friend’s birthday. (And heading down to Los Angeles next weekend.)

In regards to the new job, though, things are progressing. I am in training, which means I have been reading lots of documents, running here and there on campus to complete tasks, working through modules, and shadowing fellow advisors. It means that I have been orienting myself to the culture of my new college, learning about the student population through observation and interaction, and looking at how theory is implemented into practice. For example, I was thrilled to discover that my department has an advising syllabus; it just so happens that my advising course at OSU is covering advising syllabi, so to see that in action–and at my place of employment–was nerdily exciting. For those unfamiliar with advising syllabi, the documents are essentially informational documents that allow advisors to communicate a department’s mission and the goals and outcomes students should obtain out of the advising process over time. Learning outcomes, as well as student responsibilities, make up a good portion of the document, communicating that students have responsibility in making decisions that affect their college career. (In other words, we advise, but students ultimately act and make their own choices.)

I have already seen a wide range of advisor-advisee interactions, with students coming in for varied reasons. There are students who have been out of school for years looking to pursue a particular degree. There are students trying to enroll in specific classes to satisfy requirements towards their Bachelor’s degrees (and one who even stated that it was because the course offering in a particular subject was stronger at my institution). There are students who are lost and need guidance, and others who come in to get the nod of approval on a self-designed education plan.

And that’s just the start of it. (And it’s only been a week.)

Of course, being in a new setting and learning how to do my job can be intimidating, but the atmosphere in my workplace is extraordinary. It is an area that has undergone many significant changes, and these changes have positively affected the effectiveness and efficiency of how things are run. It came from strong leadership and the understanding that change happens over time, not all at once, and the rolling out of certain elements, one piece at a time, helped the department move towards its goal of better serving students in advising.

The best part is–the department is still consciously working towards more improvements. There is not a hint of, “Good job! Now let’s call it good,” to be found. That is so important to me, a new professional, because I will not quit trying to improve my well-being and my own self, and to find myself somewhere where that is reflected externally is very reassuring.

There will be challenges ahead, and I acknowledge that I will make mistakes in my new role. But again, and like always, I am committed to continuing the learning process for myself and my students.