This week’s interesting reads…

Articles that I have found myself returning to several times over the past few days. I hope that you find them interesting as well. Read on.

26 Types of Blog Posts

Our Sphere of Control in a Student Affairs World

5 Ways White Feminists Can Address Our Own Racism

The Myers-Briggs Assessment is No Fad

The MBTI–My Most Valid Tool

11 Tips to Keep iOS7 From Destroying Your Battery Life

I Don’t Want Tim Wise As An Ally. No Thanks.

Laws of Physics and College Transition

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There is an amusement park near my home that has one of those lose your lunch inducing rides that spin faster and faster until the floor drops out. It leaves you stuck to the wall until the ride slows and you gradually resume your footing on solid ground. The science of this phenomenon is centrifugal inertial force.

My university is welcoming 4,356 6,000+ new students to campus as we begin the fall semester; colleges across the country are welcoming thousands more. Imagine the inertial force as these students navigate classes, new roommates, and campus cultures that are frequently in contrast to their personal experiences.

Now, imagine your campus as a giant spinning disk with a student planted firmly in place by centripetal force, moving along the curved path of the disk, going with the flow. All is fine as the student survives residence move-in, deciphers a schedule, and maneuvers the dining center. But soon the campus disk is spinning faster and the centrifugal inertial force can become greater than the centripetal friction force holding the student in place. A failing quiz grade, roommate argument, financial difficulties or homesickness can all be triggers to send our students flying right off the college ride.

As we in student affairs greet our new students and those who are returning, it is important that we keep these laws of physics in mind. Know what resources you have available to address student concerns. Advocate for your students when university networks are difficult to follow. Listen carefully for clues that a student may be struggling.

Understanding F = mv2/r may just graduate a student.

This post first appeared on eighteen and life on August 23, 2010.

Like a Box of Chocolates

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How do you define your work in student affairs?

Like many of my colleagues in student affairs, my first job in the profession was the result of a student leadership experience, student tour guide to be exact. My work as an undergraduate admissions ambassador led to a position as an admissions recruiter for a small private college. Working in admissions, helping students with their college decision-making, I honed facilitation skills that are critical to my current job. I had a couple of gigs as a director of admissions before turning my sights to program coordination.

Stanford professor Robert Sutton suggests employees need predictability, understanding, control, and compassion. As anyone who has spent even a few months in a student affairs position can tell you, those items are few and far between. You learn early in your career that student affairs hours include nights, weekends, and other duties as assigned. The concerns of the 18-year old college student differ from year to year. Reactions to course assignments or program activities may not communicate their message or be perceived as useful. Faculty and academic units question the value of student affairs programming and services, particularly in challenging financial times. Student affairs professionals do, however, provide predictability, understanding, control, and compassion… for our students.

The graduate assistants who have worked in my unit over the years have enhanced my work and life. They went from grad to pro and are now high school teachers, logistics managers, academic advisors, independent consultants, and campus activity coordinators. Each of these individuals had an opportunity to make a difference in student lives. They used their creativity, energy, and enthusiasm to make our university a better place for students. When I think of my colleagues at the Student Affairs Collaborative, you may find us in campus activities, student union management, leadership development, residence life, career planning, scholarship programs, and consulting. Those titles do not include the personal counseling, financial advising, academic enhancement, and other duties as assigned that we provide on a daily basis.

I borrowed the title for this post from a former graduate assistant who is now blazing trails of her own. She used the analogy that Student Affairs is like a box of chocolates for a course assignment and the concept stuck with me.

Student Affairs is:

  • Being a generalist in helping, listening, organizing, and facilitating, while a specialist in your position.
  • Never growing old as you surround yourself with 18-22 year olds.
  • Spending your life by the academic year calendar.
  • Justifying your existence with the belief that higher education is also about the out-of-classroom experience.
  • A real profession.

Student Affairs professionals work hard to make our colleges and universities more welcoming and engaging for students because we believe in higher education and all that it offers. We get up every morning and face the day with a smile, because we never know what we’re going to get.

This post first appeared on eighteen and life on January 17, 2010.

 

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

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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.