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

 

 

 

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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:

Melissa
Trish
Joe
Mary
Gini
JOHNNY OMAHA

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.

Affirmation

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!

Super Bowl Funday

I was going to write about the state of things, but I’m in the kitchen and both of my roommates are cooking things I can’t eat. It’s delicious and distracting (D&D?).

This whole nearly-paleo thing is working out pretty well for me. Avoiding refined sugars and grains hasn’t been too bad. Somewhere, a purist is angry that I still eat yogurt and milk and cheese. Somewhere, another purist can’t believe I still have caffeine. Regardless, I’m wondering how to continue this “cleaner” eating lifestyle because I feel good and honestly, I look better than I have in a long time.

I am also clicking along in this student affairs first-year professional role. There are challenges that come with working in the two-year setting, and I am happy to face those. I am leaving for Georgia on Wednesday morning for a NACADA institute; excited for this work-related journey.

And with that, I’m going to go make some nearly-paleo hot wings.

 

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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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.