All of This

I am almost a month into “Hashtag Best Summer Ever,” and I have stored enough Vitamin D to get me through the winter, I think. I spent another lovely weekend in Seattle, visiting friends, visiting familiar haunts, and trying new places out. (Might I recommend The Commons out in Woodinville to you all? Try the boozy milkshake.)

Currently, I am taking several days off from CrossFit to regroup and recoup. Not just physically, but to take some mental renewal. For instance, I am spending some time thinking about what I am striving for with my career and chosen industry. I want to be intentional in setting goals for myself so that I have measurable outcomes. The biggest goal currently is to raise the necessary funds to present at NACADA in October. Again, you can help out by chipping in as little as $5; follow the GoFundMe link to the right for more information.

But other than presenting at a national conference, what else am I looking for? What comes next for an academic advisor who has found the most enjoyable conversations have come out of academic dismissal meetings? These students are given one quarter where they cannot enroll in classes at the college, and the majority of them come to the meeting with articulated reasons for why they did not succeed in previous terms. We get to talk about their goals and aspirations, and then we whittle it down to why they think our college fits into their plans, and then finally the logistics of registering for a class. It is an opportunity for us to explore the bigger picture together, and then get into the details and tactics of how to complete that bigger picture.

I like facilitating intentional thinking for others because it’s been such an important part of my own life. I want to find myself in a role where I can inspire students to change the world around them, one tiny ripple at a time. I want to see those “ah-ha!” moments come into fruition. I do not have the answers to what comes next; it is a process that is just beginning.

Besides my career, I am also taking this summer to really reflect on what I want in a partner. I have had so many failures to launch and near-misses and train-wrecks, that it is time to step back. A few weeks ago I brought up the fact that this is my first summer unattached and single in a very, very long time. It has been quite interesting to do the activities that I always thought were better with another person and instead just have so much fun just focusing on myself and my friendships.

Here is what I am starting to consider, in terms of this hypothetical connection I want.

We (“We” being “future Mr. Partner Man” and myself) have to be so okay with the idea of discarding “normal plans.” We also have to be okay with the idea of reworking “normal plans” to fit who we are–not to fit any one idea of what a couple should be doing milestone-wise. He should be okay knowing that I might shift my idea of what my career will look like and pursue the Ph.D. track with the sole intention of becoming Communication faculty, but he should also be okay with the fact that I might strive for a Dean of Students position. Or I might back off and go part-time and pursue writing and the whiskey bar I’ve been secretly wanting to be a part of. I fully expect this partner to have the same kind of aspirations, but the idea remains the same: moving forward towards fulfillment, towards purpose, towards happiness, and towards the next greatest adventure.

Somewhere in there, a home of our own and a family of our own will organically come forward. Dogs, kids, a yard? Maybe. A rabbit, one kid way down the road, and an urban loft? That could very well be, too. Something that isn’t even a blip on the radar? More than likely. The thing about me is, I am in a constant state of evolving and becoming; that’s how a relationship should unfold with me. That’s why I am not forcing anything or pursuing anything. I am not waiting nor on pause. I am here. And I am trusting in the infinite goodness (and weirdness) of the universe. (Do you hear me, Universe?)

I want this summer to be a summer of healing for myself, too. For too long, summer has been a season that I love because of the weather and the way it lends itself to spontaneity and adventure, but it has also been a season of heartache, historically. I want to show myself that I can be happy in the summertime by being a little bit selfish and treating myself the best way possible.

I heard a great quote last night on my drive home, and it really resonates with me because of the way I feel and experience this journey called life:

“I don’t think you can appreciate the glory of life unless you also know the dark side of life.” – Bessel van der Kolk, On Being interview

How true. Some may think I have too many feelings, but I cannot imagine a life in which I do not appreciate the full spectrum of my human emotion. This summer, I commit to spontaneity and intentionality, socializing and reflecting, growing and knowing when to take a moment for myself because all of this matters.

It matters more than I even know.

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The “Better” Shun the Best

This is one of those Monday nights where I thought I had lots of great things to say and share, but then it turns out, I’m just kind of a big happy mess from a week straight of working out/training and getting all hugely re-inspired about what I do for a living.

However, here’s one thing I’ve been pondering all day, but forgive me if this ends up being convoluted–my glasses are in the other room, and it’s just too much of a chore to go get them right now, and I’m a bit tired and rambling.

My good friend over at This is Not Real Life shared her thoughts on this New York Times article. I read her post, and then immediately flooded her poor dashboard with several full-length comments, all in support of her ideas and, naturally, in support of my beloved public institutions.

As a new student affairs professional, I’m still all alight about the role that I have in affecting students’ lives. But I’m not going to analyze what it is that these “elite” institutions need to do to attract the high-achieving poor (I’ll save that for another day). Instead, I’m going to share my story and my ponderings, too, because–as you should know–storytelling is an important aspect in the ongoing development of one’s identity.

There’s no doubt that my parents weren’t rich growing up. We were secure, that’s for sure, but we didn’t live a lavish lifestyle. I got dance lessons and music lessons, and I don’t remember applying for financial assistance for field trips or lunches, but I do remember that my dad questioned me one time as to why I absolutely needed to spend $60 or so on track team sweats.

I also remember that my parents told me not to go to my audition at Cornish, that it would be too expensive if I went there, and I shouldn’t consider it a college choice. While I’m certain a lot of this had to do with the fact that my parents just knew I would change my mind away from music, I’m also fairly certain this also had to do with finances.

Cornish was the only private institution I really considered. It was because, at the time, I wanted to study music; of course, I didn’t even think about the fact that it was a private institution. I just knew it was a music conservatory, and the other schools I was looking at were “just” universities.

The other “real” private institutions had long been ruled out. So had the out-of-state schools. I don’t specifically remember any conversations my parents and I had, but I think I remember saying something about a California school, and Dad briefly scolding me about the expenses involved–something along the lines of, “No way. That’s too expensive; you’re looking in-state.” The only private institution I was encouraged to think about was Gonzaga, although for the life of me, I really don’t know why. (Any insight, Mom? You know, Seattle University is a Jesuit university, too!)

So, long, long ago, I knew that I was going to go to a public institution without even consciously thinking about it. I wasn’t the most in-tune with my identity as a mixed-race female coming from a middle-class family. We were more towards the “not high end” of the middle-class spectrum, although Mom and Dad had so much in order that I never really considered our socioeconomic status. All I knew was we didn’t make enough money to send me to Stanford or Harvard, even though I was one of the smartest and brightest kids on the block.

I wasn’t going to go to an Ivy League school. End of question. My dad knew how financial aid worked. Maybe he was just trying to save me the disappointment of applying to those “highly selective” private institutions and finding out we’d be several thousand short despite PLUS loans and scholarships. (And I had a heck of a time securing scholarships my senior year, partially because I was lazy in writing the essays, and partially because I couldn’t sell my skills and talents and dreams without coming up short against the tri-sport athletes and virtuosos in my hometown.)

Like my friend (whom I eventually met in college), I chose Western. I chose Western Washington University because it was a good university, and because I was accepted into the music program there, and because my parents approved the price tag. I also got a scholarship! Whee! Granted, I was awarded a lot more free aid at Central Washington University, but I was keen on going west, out of eastern Washington and into the big (rainy) unknown. I never regret that choice because WWU became a driving force in my transformation into a much more conscious participant in society and a much more self-aware person.

After reflecting on all this, though, I still wonder about a few things. What if… I had been given the go-ahead to apply to one or two private institutions? Which institutions would I have chosen? My inclination is that I would have applied to Stanford, Harvard, maybe Notre Dame–those are the names that got people recognized, after all. Would I have worked harder to apply for more scholarships? How would I have reacted in finding out that the price tag on those “dream schools” was too much–or worse yet, still too much? Would I have then felt as if I was giving something up in choosing a public institution? Or would I have fought tooth and claw for the chance to go, no matter the cost?

I’m not sure about any of that. I mean, in my town, getting into University of Washington was a huge deal, and I turned that school down after acceptance.

I also wonder if–had the stars aligned in some strange way–would I have felt welcome at an elite institution? Would I have gone through my experience as “the girl here on scholarship?” What would that have been like for a young woman who had never before questioned her SES and was suddenly thrust into not just college culture, but a culture of social elitists and the privileged? I know that we ask those same questions in student affairs programs, but I wonder what’s being done to really help students that do make it to that final step of sending in their acceptance letter, despite all the barriers to their success.

In the end, it wasn’t a lack of awareness that kept me from the highly selective private institutions*. I was not a first-generation college student; my parents had plenty of experience with higher education. It was the reality that, even with a school’s help, there would be a steep price to pay. And as my friend brings up–am I losing out on opportunities because I couldn’t afford to brand my resume with words like “Harvard” or “Stanford?”

I’m capable of good work. I highly doubt that wealthier students my age were any smarter than me; it wasn’t purely brains that got them that Harvard education. The thing that kept this brilliant mind and many others out of those ivied walls were these ideas–no, realities–that an “elite” education has to mean absurd sacrifice for those of us not living lives of incredible economic privilege, and maybe–just maybe–an idea in the back of my head that, in the end, I just didn’t belong there.

I graduated from public school. Take THAT!

I graduated from public school. Take THAT!

*Also, just because something is “highly selective” doesn’t mean it’s the best. “The best” is going to factor in a lot of things, including cultivating meaningful members of society, providing opportunities for critical thinking and learning, etc. I know that if I have college-bound children, they’re going to be spending a lot of time articulating to me why they’re applying to certain schools and why it speaks to them.

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.

…………

!!!!!!!!!!!

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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.

Things I Know Now

If I had gone to Colorado State University, I would have most likely been fine with any snowfall. It’s Colorado– they have snow equipment.

If I had gone to Seattle University, I would have most likely been fine school-wise for any snowfall. I lived four blocks away from the university.

I’m at Oregon State, and I live on-campus. I have no excuses for not being able to get to work due to snow.

I should have thought through this more.

I remember my very first snow day at Western Washington University.

Let me preface why. I grew up in eastern Washington, as most of you know, where snowplows make up 10% of the working population, and de-icers and sand trucks are common sights during the winter. Everyone has snow tires, unless they drive an AWD vehicle, which is common. (Note: I loved my studless traction tires that were on my Corolla. They were like a badge of pride in Bellingham when I went to college.) That said, snow days back home were, at the most, a two-hour delay to the start of school. That was mostly to accommodate the folks who came from Badger Mountain or other towns outside the direct city area. Word on the street is, my friends at Cashmere High School would sometimes shovel snow off their gym’s roof during P.E. classes on snow days. Either way, snow back home was usually no big deal. (Unless you had procrastinated getting your studded tires on and were driving front-wheel drive. Then you had to get out of the car and walk the rest of the half mile to school. But gosh darn it, my dad was still able to get the car turned around and back down the hill. I, on the other hand, spent the rest of the school day looking like a drowned rat.)

Snow at WWU was another beast. I woke up early one morning, peeked through the blinds, and saw 1 or 2 inches of fluffy white snow on the ground. I grumbled to myself, “Hour delay at best.” I made my way into the bathroom and began showering. About halfway through my shower, and nowhere near being awake, E popped into the bathroom suite to tell me, “Classes are cancelled!”

Excuse me?

At first it seemed ridiculous. Of course, it was lots of fun. Two of the future Nesters and I even took the bus all the way out to the mall.

But the mall was closed at 4PM. Due to snow.

We wandered around some more– I think we were looking for gloves or something– finally finding Cost Cutter open. Eventually, we made it to Denny’s, enjoyed some hot chocolate, then waited for the bus and its chained-up glory to arrive.

The roads weren’t plowed. There were tire tracks which packed down all the snow. But there was no salt, and the only plow I remembered seeing hadn’t even been plowing at all.

Well, whaddya know. The roads froze over. And that’s when the town REALLY shut down.

All because of what I thought was a one-hour delay.

Prestige

In my History of American Higher Education class, we’ve been learning about the creation of the American university. Harvard was the first, in 1636– I won’t be forgetting that fact anytime soon. Also, I hope that I will be of much better use to any trivia teams I join in the future.

What I wanted to point out is something that I think liberal arts majors may appreciate.

Science didn’t come onto the scene until around the 1850s. And when it did, people were like, “Ew, a science degree? You’re such a loser!” It was the cool and prestigious thing to have a Bachelor of Arts, not a Bachelor of Science (or a Bachelor of Philosophy, as Yale called their degree).

I find it funny to see how things have changed, to see how I tend to defend my “soft science” communication degree, or how I explain that, “Yes, I’m good at math and at science, but I don’t want to do that,” quite often. I also see the other side of it, how people with “hard science” interests struggle with their other interests in communication or languages or psychology or philosophy.

It used to be that practicality was pretty much laughed at, in terms of the types of degrees students sought out. Now, we’re all so worried about finding a relevant job and applying a degree that practicality is the only thing that matters. Perhaps, though, as others have done before, it’s best to balance the two– after all, college is a unique time to explore interests and passions.

I loved communication, and I formally paired it with business administration. I informally paired my degree with athletics and ethnic studies through my activities. Other people paired their hard science major with a seemingly unrelated minor.

As I keep saying, one of our biggest responsibilities in this lifetime (and especially at college) is to be accountable for and to ourselves. Don’t live too far in the future; cultivate yourself in the now.

It’s Friday!

Graduating from University, June '08

On Monday, I start graduate classes. Consider me anxious.

Yesterday was University Day at my school. I went over with the rest of my office’s staff to listen to several speakers, enter to win sweet prizes, eat a delicious lunch, and peruse the various informational booths.

I had the chance to listen to Dr. Jillian Kinzie speak about student engagement. During her speech, she went over several key points I anticipate to learn more about as a student affairs grad. However, what struck a chord with me was the fact that several of the points were observations I had casually made over the summer and as I’ve tried to narrow down my ideas for a specialization.

A few people have recently heard that I wish to work in international programs and multicultural outreach. Ideally, I want to work in a role that encompasses both, as I personally noticed that programs like study abroad don’t seem entirely accessible to all students– read: most of my friends that studied abroad were white. Like I said, it was a casual observation that made me go, “Hmm…”

Dr. Kinzie mentioned that populations like first-generation students and students of color, among other groups, were least likely to engage in high-impact learning practices, which include things like class discussions, undergraduate research, and study abroad. (Not an exhaustive list, by any means). As she said that, I felt like jumping up and saying, “I knew it!” Now, of course, I’ll have to delve into how to change this trend– something I feel as if I’m capable of tackling.

Beyond that,  Dr. Kinzie said that college is a time of transformation, and that as professionals, we can encourage students to develop and think differently by placing them in situations which are “disorienting.” As she gave a few examples– one as simple as living with a roommate, or moving to a new city– what I had experienced, what I have known without being able to put into words, came full circle.

As a first-year student, I was restless because my old ways of thinking were continually challenged by new experiences. Luckily, I let these experiences shape me though, and I allowed myself to see new perspectives, see the world in different ways. College did transform me– I say it gave me the tools to ask the right questions, not that it gave me the answers to life.

Embarking on this student affairs journey is exciting, and yesterday gave me a glimpse into the work that I could potentially be doing. I, too, can help identify and provide opportunities for students to think in new ways, and as such, grow into a new level of consciousness.