At the Risk of Sounding Trite

Oh forget it, I’ll say it anyway.

I love seeing my best friends in love.

No, really. For all the complaining I do about being single, there is something to be said for seeing the way he smiles when she comes around, or the way she talks of all the quirky things he does. (I am referencing multiple couples in this post, but I was definitely inspired by a particular set this weekend in the land of sunshine and suntans. By that, I mean LA. But I digress.)

And I love seeing that because it gives me hope that I’ll find mine, too.

For now, I’m just living, enjoying my own life and my own company, getting into trouble here and there (but not too much–I’m an adult, after all!), and planning my next great adventures. As I make this transition to Portland, Oregon, I see several paths in the distance.

I see myself springing for that perfect downtown condo in Portland, making a home and a life and a career in this rainy corner of the USA.

Or I see myself working my way down the West Coast, to San Francisco, to LA, to San Diego. And then finishing up things in Hawai’i.

Or moving to Australia or England or some other far-away place that I haven’t given any thought to yet.

And all the while, I see myself making a difference, loving life, loving who I become.

A friend–who is also part of a downright amazing couple–recently shared this quote: “When you stop chasing the wrong things, you give the right things a chance to catch you.” I’m taking everything day by day, letting this story continue to unfold (as I have said many times before), and if this is where I am meant to be right now, I will eventually find out if it’s forever.

But forever is going to have to wait for me, I think.

Good night, readers. Have a fantastic week.

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Inconsequential

A father who was a guidance counselor, a teacher, a principal, and a worldly traveler.

A mother who was a teacher, a music-lover, and a traveler at heart.

A teacher who believed in my talents, and now recalls how fantastic parent-teacher conferences were with my parents, and praises me for doing something good and meaningful with my talents.

Parents who cared and were involved, but made me fight my own battles, driving my independence.

Professors who saw potential in my writing and hesitation in my verbal expressions.

An advisor who showed me that people that look like me can be educators, too.

A colleague who was only a virtual friend at first who encouraged me to look at OSU’s program.

A best friend who I met at summer orientation before my first year of college, who jokingly suggested I look at OSU because she grew up in Corvallis.

A professor whose wisdom and even-headedness reminded me of the father who believed in me and pushed me to become much more.

Professors with Ph.D.’s who pushed me to think even more critically, to write even more precisely.

Supervisors that were thrilled with my enthusiasm and perspectives that came from outside education.

Friends that dealt with my tears, my frustration, and a nagging undertone that I’m not good enough to do x, y, or z.

All of you got me here. All of you helped me look in the mirror and say, “Maybe I am something more than this. Maybe I can change the world.”

And if someday, I become the advisor that pushed a student to pursue his or her talents to the fullest, then I have done something right.

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.

Winter Quarter 2012: Week 1

That’s a wrap. Here’s a summary in bullets:

  • Project discussions for the remainder of the term and spring term continue. Details to come once I know more.
  • Legal Issues (AHE 554) met for the first time yesterday. I’m pretty excited to delve into this topic, as it’s been years since I’ve been around law. For those who don’t know, I used to work at a courthouse as a file clerk. I got to see how part of the legal system worked, and so hopefully, that makes tackling legal issues from another angle a bit less intimidating. We’ll see. I’m hoping to learn more about issues surrounding technology (e.g., what happens when hate speech circulates on Twitter/email on a school’s end) as well as liability and risk management (specifically thinking about risk management for college and university cheer teams, including club-level squads, and related topics).
  • Spirituality (AHE 599) is going to be excellent. I look forward to expanding my articulation about how I exist and what I believe, and how that can help students in their own personal journeys. I am also very pleased to share that my class will be holding a conversation with Dr. Alexander “Sandy” Astin! I had a chance to hear him and his wife speak at NASPA conference last year on the topic of spirituality, and I would say that was a key point in my student affairs career. Right now, I am working on developing a proposal with a colleague on how to use purpose and meaning (through talking spirituality, for instance) to support transition, whether that’s into/out of a two-year/four-year institution or into/out of graduate school or into the working world. There are many facets to explore.
  • New Media Communications 101 is another course I am looking forward to. Yes, I am enrolled in a 101 class, but it’s directly applicable to my interests. As a big fan of social media, NMC 101 will talk about how to effectively create and deliver messages through various media–including comic books, social media outlets, etc. and so forth. We’ll be viewing The Matrix with a critical eye, looking at how techniques communicate certain messages, for example. My communication and rhetoric undergraduate self is leaping for joy. I am also using this as a chance to observe classroom techniques. One thing I’ve noticed is that the class section is only about 40 students large. According to our instructor, that’s down from a cap of around 70 from last term. Additionally, we spent a little bit texting our responses to a question to our professor yesterday. That might not seem significant, but having a professor say, “Please take out your phones and open your text messaging function,” is really, really cool! It allowed us to contribute somewhat anonymously–and yes, he did accommodate for those who may have to pay per text. Students will be able to submit through alternative methods to contribute to this body of knowledge.
  • Salsa I! I love dancing. Apparently, so do other grad students, as a good percentage of my class is comprised of grad students from various disciplines. Happy to see others are looking for balance and also finding time to learn something outside of the “professionally practical.” I’m sure you could argue that social dance is practical, and I wouldn’t really stop you.
  • Work is also going well. We had our first staff meeting of the term today. There was discussion about how to better support students in creating posters for their thesis projects. Currently, there are optional workshops available now and then. As I listened to the discussion, I recognized that skills I picked up at my internship in Wenatchee could apply to the situation. I suggested that we perhaps craft a few online presentations that utilize visual as well as audio instructions to assist students. I figure that allows some flexibility for busy seniors, as they can log on at their own convenience. It will also free up our resources as it would allow our staff to continue offering workshops as they can while also giving us some flexibility; presentations can also be used year after year (with updates!).
  • I turned in another job application for the Portland area last night. I’m really hoping I at least get some nod of approval on this one because it would be a great fit for my personality and strengths. I have a few more positions to apply for during this long weekend. That said, if you’re so inclined, please put in a good word with the universe and any and all Supreme Beings. 🙂
  • I am also in the process of starting to schedule my defense. Time flies.

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.

Expect the Unexpected

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This blog is subtitled An Adult in Transition for a good reason. I’ve been mulling over my parallel life plans the past few days, and there is a wealth of possibility. I’m sure the next nine or ten months will be full of surprises.

On a different note, I was able to set foot on three southern Califoria schools this past week: California Lutheran University, UCLA, and USC. Each was quite different, with my favorite being UCLA. Hopefully my photos of my trip turn out; I had a 35mm camera with me that I barely know how to use!

I apologize for my small hiatuses this summer. As seems to be the norm, my personal life is rather demanding, requiring much processing and contemplation. I won’t disclose much more than that, but I’m learning to at least put my energy behind exploring these aforementioned parallel plans.

As always, stay tuned.

AHE 510: COB Internship

My internship with the College of Business has been, to sum it up, fun. I have worked independently to evaluate two social networking tools and their relevance within higher education.

The first network I have been evaluating over the term is LinkedIn. LinkedIn is commonly thought to be the “professional” version of Facebook, just another collection of “people I know.” However, LinkedIn has the potential to be a wonderful tool when used effectively. My job this term was to research what was being said about LinkedIn and synthesize a users’ guide from there. What I have learned is that LinkedIn is in another realm of its own, and while the functionality is just being discovered, it will be incredibly helpful to emerging professionals. For instance, LinkedIn has a feature in which users can recommend each other; for employers, this means that instead of hunting down formal letters of recommendation in a job search, those recommendations are only a click away. Granted, it is not a perfect method of communicating information, but it is a step in the right direction, especially in our growing tech-savvy world.

The second network I began evaluating is Chatter.com. Chatter is an intranetwork tool, meaning that it is intended for offices to communicate within themselves, not to network in extensive ways, like LinkedIn. Chatter combines elements of an exclusive Facebook and Twitter site to offer a unique form of communication. It is easy to use, which is the basis for social networking sites, but it simultaneously offers a way to promote quick, informal transfer of information between office members. Instead of sending cumbersome emails to one another, employees are able to post updates and share thoughts with ease. Its usefulness in higher education is something that is being evaluated, as it was developed by Salesforce.com to drive communication and collaboration in the corporate world. That said, it has the potential to streamline processes in various areas of universities, not just the OSU College of Business.

Whereas my internship with IDEA required a good portion of in-office time, one thing I particularly enjoyed about the COB internship was its portability. Although not necessarily something I had anticipated learning more about when I started my internship, the “working from home” portion gave me some insight into the appeal of telecommuting and how the work week is reshaping in today’s society. A tool such as Chatter retains its functionality from computer to computer, whereas remote email (like mobile Outlook) does not. I could see Chatter becoming a big player in the realm of admissions and recruiting, when members are on the road. It could also serve as a more tight-knit version of the Twitter “backchannel” at professional conferences; members of a group would be able to share their thoughts using trends (words prefixed with the # sign) on a platform that would ensure the rest of the team would see it.

Competencies addressed: (7) Teaching, Presentation, and Publication; (8) Individual, Group, and Organizational Communication; (1) Knowledge of Higher Education and Student Affairs [particularly in tech-related areas]