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.

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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.

Area of Specialization: “Advising for the Globally-Connected Citizen”

Advising for the Globally-Connected Citizen

CSSA allows its students the choice of either obtaining a minor in an official academic area or specializing in a custom-designed area. I chose to specialize, as my interests were broad enough to warrant independent design. Coming into the program, I envisioned specializing in a way that would prepare me to work in international education. As I moved through my first year, I realized my specialization needed to focus on guidance and support for students in an increasingly connected world. I wanted to add elements of how to teach students to understand their own world views and how those can influence their connections with others, as well as how to advise these “global citizens” in an age with rapidly developing technology. I eventually settled on the title, “Advising for the Globally-Connected Citizen,” which suggests a more limited scope in functional areas while also showcasing my interest in cultivating mindful students.

I have truly seen that international issues in higher education go far beyond study abroad and international students on-campus. Although my participation in the NASPA International Education Knowledge Community (IEKC) is not an official part of my area of specialization, it is a critical component nonetheless. As a part of the leadership team, I interact with professionals who work in various functional areas yet also contribute to higher education’s international knowledge base. For example, administrators at various levels have the opportunity to participate in exchange tours, allowing them to explore how different student affairs/student services models function in other countries. These exchanges include sending American administrators abroad, as well as bringing international delegations to the United States. While I have not participated in an exchange due to my standing as a graduate student and new professional–currently, most exchanges are for upper-level administrators–I am able to learn from these worldly travelers, as I hear about the models and the way they navigate their relevant local and global situations.

As I move into my professional role as an academic advisor and program specialist, I am happy to report that I will be continuing my volunteer role with the IEKC as both the Technology Chair and the Marketing Coordinator. While I will be residing in Portland, I look forward to staying globally-connected while helping my students look worldwide for opportunities and inspiration in their careers and education.

Full Circle

CSSA Campus Days, the annual interview weekend for prospective students, happened this Friday and Saturday. I took a low-key role this time around, staffing the hospitality room on Friday and serving as the current student representative on one team of admissions interviewers on Saturday. This year’s event went much better for me, considering that last year this time was not my happiest. I felt like I had much more insight to share with prospective candidates, including pieces of wisdom that were more reflective. As such, I thought about all the trials and tribulations I have faced in the two years since I went through Campus Days as a prospective student.

I had candidates ask me how to select between different graduate programs; I told them what I had been told: listen to your heart. One of the joys of student affairs is that we are encouraged to analyze an institution for its fit with ourselves. I told students about how I wrestled with turning down a prestigious program and another program that was fantastic and only blocks from my comfortable Seattle life. I told them how OSU seemed to call to me, and how the stars seemed to align to bring me to little ol’ Corvallis. I told them about how wonderful it was to see the individual paths my cohort members chose–some folks are wizards at conference presentations, others are the most inspiring professionals and family-oriented persons I’ve ever met. Others, like me, faced personal challenges head-on and found unexpected pathways through our persistence.

What has transpired since 2010 is a process that astounds me. I was excited to see who I would meet on this venture into graduate school, and as I said on Twitter, I could not have asked for more. My classmates are a diverse collection of stories unfolding before my eyes.

I see that with my students, too. I catch those little “ah-ha!” moments, and it’s amazing to share in those with them. I understand that the conversations I have with students today can alter the paths they choose tomorrow. Just today, I heard that a close friend’s younger sister is considering pursuing student affairs; no doubt it has to do with the influence my friend and her SA friends have had. It’s not a profession we recruit for either. It’s a profession that we carry out with passion.

I had a student ask me about the student affairs pathway the other day, and I told her all about the different journeys people I know have taken into the field. While it would be wonderful to someday work in the same field as one of my students, I also recognize how awesome it would be to just know that the conversation may have sparked an interest to search for meaning and purpose. This is not something I can quantify or put into numbers. That’s okay. What I know is that my reward comes in the pursuit of learning and purpose, and seeing how my small contributions eventually change my own course and the course of those around me.

SPLAC

The following post is a reflection I wrote about my Fall 2011 internship experience. It was composed in early December, and my projects are now fully complete.


SPLAC: Small Private Liberal Arts College
(I don’t think this acronym is in heavy rotation, but what a shame.)

I spent Fall 2011 interning at Willamette University in Salem, OR. I spent one day a week over the quarter working in the Office of Student Activities, a centrally-located office housing administrators over-seeing various campus functions. OSA additionally functions as a hub for student interactions, with various student leaders coming in throughout the day to complete tasks, hold office hours, and generally catch up with each other.

One of my main goals with this internship was to gain a better understanding of the environment found at a small private university. My background in education has always been public, from K through grad school. My undergraduate university was mid-sized, with about 13,000 students total; my graduate institute currently enrolls about 24,000 students. By comparison, WU has about 2,800 students currently enrolled. How does a small population affect the campus atmosphere? I noticed that the smaller physical layout of campus allows staff, faculty, and students to pass familiar faces often. As a result, I observed folks carrying on conversations that would last several minutes when each party was simply walking to a class or a meeting or running some other errand. People know each other on WU’s campus, possibly from a combination of housing, small classes, programs and organizations, as well as seeing each other while passing through campus. This creates a comfortable atmosphere, and the campus culture seems to be very friendly and accommodating.

A concern I have for myself, in terms of functioning within a smaller campus population and environment, is that I seem to embrace a degree of anonymity. (In other words, I feel like I can flourish by breaking through the walls that students may perceive in certain organizations.)  My personality and goals seem to align well with community colleges and mid- to large-sized public universities; this is something that I have been hoping to determine since starting the CSSA program. I originally thought a smaller environment would suit me the best, but as a high school classmate said (who, incidentally, goes to WU), “It can be a bit cliquey, and ‘high school drama’ tends to manifest.” I can observe how that would be possible, and I am not sure that would fit well with where I am in personal development. However, I had a positive experience at WU and could very well adjust to the right small institution in the future; nothing is ruled out!

Another key piece in this internship was improving my familiarity with technology. Main components of the technology piece included the following: (a) updating and editing WU webpages; (b) using Prezi to develop a final document; and (c) navigating Google Docs in the context of higher education (since I am trained in Microsoft Office in previous work environments).Through my internship, I was able to learn how to use WU’s web editor, which helped me build upon my knowledge of editing websites. I have some previous experience through my position as the NASPA International Education Knowledge Community’s Technology Chair, and regularly update our site by using SavvyTools. In comparison to that software, WU’s editor is more user-friendly, and works across multiple platforms. Since I work off of a Mac primarily, I appreciate software that accounts for this and allows me to continue to be effective in my work. I am still in the process of identifying pieces of the WU OSA webpage that could use some touch-ups, and I hope to have those pieces complete by the time I depart for winter break.

I gauged which changes were necessary for the website by reviewing peer and aspirant institutions’ pages, as well as talking to students about what they would have liked to see. Overall, websites tend to list too much information, making it hard for students to find what they need. Items are sometimes in hard-to-find or non-intuitive locations. A hearty reorganization and paring-down effort is necessary to bring WU’s OSA page up-to-date; luckily, as I have often said, its interface is already light years ahead of some institutions’ pages–one of which was literally a big block of text without any hyperlinks or guidance.

The largest component of my internship was my assessment of student organization advising. My project focused around identifying best practices in advising student organizations, along with developing working documents in order to address existing areas of opportunity. The biggest divergence in advising student organizations at WU is found in whether or not an advisor oversees organizations as part of his or her job description. Advisors that have dedicated time for advising meet and/or communicate with students more often, find more scheduled time to attend and support events and activities, and overall express a calmer demeanor toward the advising functions. Advisors that do the job on a voluntary basis seem a bit more detached, although that is often due to the type of organization with which they are involved. However, what was consistent was a sentiment that there was not adequate time in advisors’ schedules to communicate and meet with students; their professional schedules, along with students’ class schedules, do not allow for time away from essential job functions.

One advisor who also is a faculty member suggested that WU re-evaluate requirements for tenure-track professionals. She stated that perhaps, given WU’s position as a liberal arts college, professors could be able to use advising a student organization as a type of fulfillment towards tenure. This would dually allow advisors more time to tend to advising needs, thereby allowing students more interaction and hopefully better support.

I am designing a Prezi to function as the focal point of administering a training session for advisors. Advisors, often times, are not up-to-date with materials, where things are located, or how to best communicate with their clubs. A Prezi allows advisors a fun and engaging way to get updated on advising, as it serves to deliver information in a way that is more dynamic than email. An electronic format, furthermore, allows flexibility; this is crucial since many advisors are already pressed for time with other job functions.

This has been a very good experience for a term. I have learned more about current technology, small colleges, advising, and assessment. I have been immersed in a new campus culture, and I am happy with the experience. I now have new perspectives to add to my personal skills. I envision that the ability to understand how to best support student organizations will allow me to be an effective and engaged advisor in the future.

Touchdown

Made it to Trinidad a few hours ago. I’ll be spending the next week with friends seeing the sights and getting acquainted with the culture.

I will also most likely get heat rash.

Also, also–I had an incredible end to the term with this past weekend. I couldn’t ask for a better time, honestly.

Naming My Baby: The Essence of My Grad Program Specialization

I had my mid-program review on Tuesday. For those unfamiliar with the MPR, it’s like a mini-defense at the halfway point of my graduate program. I met with my full committee, Skyping in Eric all the way from South Carolina to join the other two members and myself.

My main challenge at this point in time is coming up with a title to capture the essence of my area of specialization. It started out as a “globalization” or “global citizen” focus, but as my interests have expanded, it’s come to include spirituality and academic advising in addition to the global focus. Spirituality is in there for several reasons. One, it’s important (in my opinion) for globally-minded citizens to understand different ways of believing and how that can go beyond religion; it’s also important to understand how religion and culture interact. Secondly, I also think a person is more apt to understand others when he or she is nurtured in a holistic way that encompasses the spirit. It plays into globalization, so it works with my original intentions.

However, I’m figuring out that I’m more apt at advising and guidance. I currently call part of my job “life advising,” and as I learn more about academic counseling, I’m coming to believe that I would do very well in a role like that.

(For more about academic counseling, check out the following:
NC State University – Academic Counseling
UCLA College Academic Counseling )

So what do I do? I was drawn to student affairs because I believe in education of the whole person–holistic education. That is my grounding principle. How do I tie that into my interest in advising/guiding/helping? How do I create a snappy title that illustrates what I’m learning and what I’m capable of?

I have a few ideas, but any input is much appreciated. This little former international marketing wannabe has the wheels turning.