Resiliency in Student Affairs

Any individual who has dedicated more than a couple of years to a career in Student Affairs understands the power of resiliency. I was reminded of this during a weekly discussion with the Student Affairs Collaborative on the topic of “Duties as Assigned”.

In student affairs, evening and weekend duty are par for the course. Emergency calls and student crises in the middle of the night are routine. In my own career, I have had my position eliminated during financial challenges and once endured seven different supervisors over a five-year span. I have mourned the loss of students, including one killed on campus by a drunk driver (another student). And of course, I have juggled work commitments while spending time away from my family.

Dr. John Grohol writes about 5 Steps to Building Resiliency. He provides great tips for growing your own reservoir of resilience.

  1. Resiliency Means Accepting that All Things are Temporary
  2. Self-Aware People are Resilient People
  3. (Some) Adversity Helps You
  4. Our Social Relationships Bolster Us
  5. Goal Setting and Understanding Your Problems is Important

Student affairs professionals must be resilient to grow, advance and succeed in this field. This same resilience allows us to serve our students when they may be struggling. As you examine your strengths in preparation for an evaluation or interview, be certain to include the resiliency traits that you bring to the table.

Happiness is not the absence of problems but the ability to deal with them. ~H. Jackson Brown

This post first appeared on eighteen and life on February 1, 2011.

Resilience: The New Skill

090411resilience

Anyone who has built a career in student affairs understands the power of resiliency. This article shared by my fellow seasoned professional Deb Schmidt-Rogers reminds us that the ability to bounce back is essential, particularly as we consider our work. How is your ability to grow through failure? How do you respond when things go wrong? Here are a few of my favorite articles on the topic.

Surprises Are the New Normal; Resilience Is the New Skill

Resilience: How to Build a Personal Strategy for Survival

Building Resilience

It’s a Post-Doc Life (Part II): Tips and Advice

Part II of It’s a Post-Doc Life is a bit of wit, wisdom, and advice for friends and other doctoral students approaching the writing phase. See Part I if you require more introduction.

Contract with an editor in advance. Determine mutual expectations for the process. I hired an editor late in my writing process at the advice of fellow doc students in my cohort and did not have adequate editing time built into my writing calendar. I thought my editor could be working on edits for Chapters 1-3 while I put the finishing touches on my final chapters. Wrong. My editor required everything in advance so as to get a feel for the entire topic. The substantial amount of tables required extra time including several horizontal pages that were incredibly ornery for pagination. Fortunately for me, my editor was patient and well versed in the requirements of our graduate college.

Make every paper support your analysis. My faculty was supportive in allowing personal research for final projects for students who had a concrete research topic. For a qualitative research class, I redesigned my quantitative topic as a case study. For program evaluation, I reviewed how my research study would contribute to program enhancement. For statistical research, I focused on a test sample of my population for the final project and was later able to refine and submit that work as my capstone. Each of these papers shaped and enhanced my final project.

Keep your focus. Post your dissertation questions where they are clearly visible at your workspace. Even on days where no writing is accomplished, reading and processing your questions is progress. I kept a list reminding me to be positive right next to my research questions. I created Pinterest pages on focus and finishing. This may seem like procrastination, but they provided good left-brain alternatives to statistical writing. Blogging also helped.

Read dissertations. I read as many dissertations related to my topic as I could locate and found off-topic examples that had been highly praised by my department. Knowing what your faculty recognizes as good research is a great motivation and resource.

Feed your brain. Skittles and pretzels are not brain or body food for any length of time. Thank goodness I was guzzling green tea. Any semblance of a healthy diet or exercise program that I had prior to writing went out the window. In its place were the bits of time that I reserved to maintain normalcy for my family, a stolen few hours for a soccer game or baking cookies. My muscles suffered from constant sitting and I made many adjustments to my workspace. I am working hard to regain a healthier self.

Take some personal time following your defense. Immediately following my dissertation I was engaged in a campus conference then traveled away for another conference before moving into the busiest weeks of my spring semester. I struggled to quickly revise my project for an article submission, submit my final work to the grad college, sign up for commencement, and close our programs for the semester. I had little time for myself with the exception of a mani/pedi and a bit of shopping. And I was exhausted.

Don’t be surprised by Post-Dissertation Stress Disorder or PDSD. Unlike many post-docs, I was lucky to already have a wonderful job in student affairs. Although I am researching and entertaining next career steps, I already have a salary and satisfying work to wake up for each day. However the lack of deadlines, lack of pressure, decreased ability to function in the normal, and deadlines that are suddenly manageable is surprisingly stressful. A professor recently described it as similar to retirement. For my fellow doc moms out there, it’s like having a baby, but nothing to cuddle with post-delivery. If you are work and project driven, the adjustment takes time.

Don’t sweat the small stuff. There will be errors in your final submission. I have found two so far, just minor things, but our grad college does not allow corrections after submission. Although incredibly frustrating, I will live. You will too.

It’s a Post-Doc Life (Part I)

It’s the last day of the first half of the year and four months following the defense of my dissertation. My writing has been stunted since that time; or rather my blog writing, and I feel the need to finally put to print the journey of my dissertation. This first part is a bit wordy. Feel free to skip to the next post for my dissertation tips.

I began a doctoral program in education and educational leadership in summer 2009. My institution provides 3 credits of tuition support per semester (student is responsible for anything above 3 credits, all fees, books, supplies), so I was a part-time student for the next three years. Last May, thirteen months ago, a member of my dissertation committee outlined how I could complete my doctoral work more quickly than planned with a few course changes. The original idea was to defend in fall of this year with a December graduation date. Always up to a challenge, I added the final courses to my summer calendar, moved to full time student status (expensive), and gathered my committee for a preliminary research discussion.

I worked with my advisor to schedule dates for a preliminary oral defense and dissertation defense. Our graduate college requires filing of intent to present a dissertation and committee in the term prior to the oral defense. And the final defense must be at least six months after the preliminary oral. My committee paperwork was submitted in May 2012, summer term, my prelim was on August 22; the third day of the fall semester, and my defense was scheduled for February of this year.

Those summer classes were essential for defining my theoretical perspective and Chapters 1 and 3, the introduction and methodology of my prospectus. I had a solid Chapter 2, the literature review, developed over the prior year. I hastily prepared for my prelims and capstone defense (final project) in August, one of the busiest months of the year for student affairs professionals. I was underprepared for this step, failing to adequately prepare my committee, but managed to muddle through. There was great benefit from having not only a student relationship but also a professional relationship with my committee. They were incredibly gracious.

And then I ignored my research. For six weeks.

With the school year securely under way, I burned vacation days and went back to writing. After several false starts on analysis, I consulted my advisor and hired a statistician to assist with the more complicated calculations. As the statistical work began to fall into place and I developed rudimentary skills for analytical writing, I sent my completed questions to my advisor for review. Four of the seven questions required nine tables each of painstakingly intricate ratio analysis. The final paper included 54 separate tables and figures. I wanted to club myself over the head on many occasions.

As I was finishing my results and powering though my final chapter at the send of the semester, my editor suffered a broken elbow and notified me that she would not be able to do any work until after the first of the year. With a late February defense date, this seemed minor, so I kept at it, taking some time though the holidays, but working, writing, revising, lather, rinse, repeat.

January was spent in edits. My editor made recommendations, I would approve or rewrite a bit. I primarily used the editorial process for structural detail such as the table of contents, placement of tables, and pagination. Also, there are rules for publishing from our grad college that are not strictly APA style, and my editor was well informed.

With advisor approval, I was able to send a draft to my committee on February 12, fifteen days before my defense date. This may seem late for many writers, but being early in the semester, there were not yet many defenses scheduled in our department. I moved into fine-tune mode and began work on my oral presentation.

The very next day, my advisor, faced with a medical situation, requested that we move my defense date ahead a week to February 20 or 21. Now you recall that my grad college requires that a defense must be six months at minimum between prelim and final oral defense. As such, moving to February 20 or 21 required special permission. After significant wrangling by my advisor and committee, the grad college approved the request, and my defense was moved to February 20. I requested more vacation days to prepare and ultimately, a week early, I defended.

And I passed.

And the Survey Says: Results of “What’s Your #SAmbti?”

A few weeks back, as the #SAmbti hashtag became a Twitter discussion point, I surveyed the folks of the #SAchat community regarding their Myers-Briggs preferences. The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® (MBTI®) is the most common instrument for determining psychological type preferences utilized in business, personal coaching and higher education. It asks a series of self-report forced-choice questions to define opposing preferences for personal energy, acquiring information, making decisions, and organizing one’s world.

The survey produced the type preferences of 129 student affairs colleagues. More than half of those responding were female. Residence Life was the most common area of employment in student affairs. The most frequent type preferences were ENFJ (n = 21), INFJ (n = 16) and ENTJ (n = 14).

The primary method for analyzing type preferences is the self-selection ratio type table or SRTT (McCaulley, 1985). The SRTT is used to measure the frequency of type in a collected sample against the frequency of that type in a base population. SRTT determines the over- or under-representation of a research sample in comparison to a national base type preference sample. The ratio numerator represents the percentage of that type in the research sample while the denominator is the type percentage in the base population. The ratio is exactly 1.00 when the type percentage presented in a group is exactly the same as the proportion in the base population. It will be greater than 1.00 if the type is overrepresented and less than 1.00 when the type is underrepresented.

Each block in the 16 code type table contains the name of the type, the percentage of the base population or expected frequency for this type, and the percentage of the #SAmbti sample with preferences for this type. The SRTT index, or observed to expected frequency ratio for this type, is also included.

What do you see as you view this type table? As a type practitioner, I immediately note the weight on the right side of the type table. Of this survey of student affairs respondents, 75% prefer Intuition (N) as their perception function (second letter of MBTI type code), compared with 26.7% in the national sample population. Seven of the eight types preferring Intuition are over-represented in this survey sample. That is a lot of Intuition!

Intuition (N) as the perception function can be described as how one takes in information. It is similar to the sudden discovery of a pattern in unrelated events. People who prefer Intuition are comfortable with the big picture, brainstorming, and looking to the future. Intuitors are imaginative, abstract, original, and creative. They can also become so intent on possibilities that they overlook the details.

Do you prefer Intuition (N)? How is it useful to you in Student Affairs?

Screen Shot 2013-06-08 at 9.21.58 PM

McCaulley, M. H. (1985). The selection ratio type table: A research strategy for comparing type distributions. Journal of Psychological Type, 10, 46-56.

Myers, I. B., McCaulley, M. H. Quenk, N. L., & Hammer, A. L. (1998). MBTI manual: A guide to the development and use of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. Palo Alto, CA: Consulting Psychologists Press.

What’s your #SAmbti?

A new hashtag, #SAmbti, recently evolved in the Student Affairs Twitter community to promote the discussion of psychological type preferences. The MBTI is a frequent badge of honor and topic of conversation among the #SACHAT collective on Twitter. I have noted the preferences of more than 100 student affairs colleagues during these conversations and will add this information to a newly created #SAmbti doc and invite you to join the fun.

Add your own preferences and follow #SAmbti for the type conversation.

Don’t know your MBTI? Drop me a line and I will  connect you with a certified MBTI type practitioner for your own facilitation.

MBTI in Student Affairs #SAmbti

A new hashtag, #SAmbti, was created in the Student Affairs Twitter community this week promoting the discussion of psychological type preferences. Understanding differences of psychological type and how type pertains to personal style and interactions is useful in a variety of work and social situations, but particularly in student affairs, a field that has a strategic service function. The assessment of psychological type is based on the theory that human behavior is not random and that patterns of mental functions exist in the population (Jung, 1971). Put simply, individuals have different motivations and processes for getting through the day, but will follow certain configurations.

The 93-item Form M Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® (MBTI®)  is the most common instrument for determining psychological type preferences utilized in business, personal coaching and higher education. It asks a series of self-report forced-choice questions to define opposing preferences for personal energy, acquiring information, making decisions, and organizing one’s world (read more on the preferences here). Based upon responses to these questions, an individual is assigned a type preference for each pair of opposites which when combined become one of 16  four-letter type codes.

For the stats geeks among us, this type table shows the national sample distribution of type preferences and also male and female percentages of the population. As an ENTJ female, it was reassuring to find that I really do think differently than the rest of the world.

Screen shot 2013-04-17 at 8.53.38 PM

Jung, C. G. (1971). Psychological Types. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Myers, I. B., McCaulley, M. H. Quenk, N. L., & Hammer, A. L. (1998). MBTI manual: A guide to the development and use of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. Palo Alto, CA: Consulting Psychologists Press.

Type and Learning

My dissertation examines aspects of Myers-Briggs® preferences and academic success in the first college semester. I became fascinated by the topic when I noticed trends in student academic performance and Myers-Briggs preference in my programs and decided to give it a closer look.

For more information, check out this great resource from Vanderbilt’s Center for Teaching:  Learning Styles & Preferences.

What are your MBTI preferences?

Just Say No to Saying No

Screen Shot 2012-12-02 at 9.59.19 AM

When I read yet another article minimizing the value of a college education I am challenged by thoughts of privilege.  Yes, Steve Jobs, an individual I greatly admire, was a college dropout, but at least he had the opportunity to give it a try. Mark Zuckerberg’s intelligence and initiative is without question, but how many students can realistically include Harvard on their college wish list? And then walk away from the opportunity?

I do not discount hard work, enterprise, and determination. But for those of us who are simply above-average, or first-generation, or of a marginalized population, college is the pathway to get a step ahead, a leg up, a move toward potential success. Yes, student loan debt and college costs demand answers, but denying the value of learning, but for an elite few, is not the answer. Just say Go. Go to college.

Open Doors

Happy Anniversary to to the eighteen and life blog!

Much has happened here in the last four years. Each post reminds me of the events, coursework, research, and friendships that have framed this blog. The topic cloud on the right highlights my work and my passions: student affairs, higher education, first-year students. As the posts have been sparse this year while I work on my dissertation, I appreciate that you are sticking with me.

Here’s a video reminder that as doors open for you, be sure to pay it forward and open doors for others.