Bringing domestic student exchange to the conversation


canada-and-usThank you to David J. Smith for bringing domestic student exchange to the conversation on global initiatives in Getting to “E Pluribus Unum”. As president of the nonprofit National Student Exchange organization and a former NSE campus coordinator, I shared the following comments.

National Student Exchange was founded in 1968, a time when our nation was searching to understand its identity, history, and how differences fit into the idea of American culture. What began as three institutions exchanging seven students has grown into a premier network of 160 colleges and universities exchanging 2,000 students annually throughout the United States, Canada, and U.S. Territories of Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and Guam.

Initiatives to enhance global engagement often overlook the diversity of North America in their quest. Scholarships and fellowships that promote international education are rarely available for domestic study away. Domestic exchanges seldom satisfy core or general educational requirements for global engagement or cultural studies, despite their cultural breadth.

Cultural agility can be greatly enhanced crossing state and provincial borders, not just oceans. NSE member campuses report domestic study away as a high impact practice supporting student satisfaction and persistence. Increasing populations of underrepresented and first-generation students are choosing NSE study away, emphasizing the need for access and choice in these opportunities. As noted by Sobania and Braskamp (2009), recent college graduates are more likely to have a post-college career with diverse colleagues from their own country than from other parts of the world.

NSE campuses range in enrollment from 600 to more than 50,000 students. In addition to AAU Research I universities, NSE member campuses include:
12 Historically Black Colleges & Universities (HBCU)
21 Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSI)
7 Urban 13 universities
14 Council of Public Liberal Arts Colleges (COPLAC)

As noted, succeeding in our political and global reality requires professionals who can operate effectively and empathetically in cross-cultural and international environments. National Student Exchange and domestic study away programs are not simply study abroad alternatives or preparatory opportunities; they are academic and personal experiences to be celebrated and encouraged for the dimension they bring to college students, degree programs, our workforce, and communities.

 

Sobania, N. & Braskamp, L. A. (2009). Study abroad or study away: It’s not merely semantics. Peer Review 11 (4).

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Inspire More.

If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader. ~John Quincy Adams

servant-leader_0Reviewing perspectives on leadership provides an opportunity to identify potential strengths beneficial to a student affairs leadership position. Many of us can identify with the achievements defined by Spears (2002) as characteristics of servant-leaders, including awareness, conceptualization, and community building. Additionally, Krulak’s (1998) Marine Corp leadership competencies highlighted decisiveness, endurance, and enthusiasm, qualities that resonate with achievements in my professional life. Each of these leadership areas will be useful in the work of student affairs.

Spears (2002) specifies servant-leadership “as a way of being in relationships with others”, involving others in “decision making” and an enhancement of “personal growth” in the workplace (p. 142.). Spears indicated the characteristic of general awareness and self-awareness as strengths essential to the servant leader. As a practitioner of psychometric and emotional intelligence assessments, I am confident in my knowledge of self, personal strengths, and areas for growth. Additionally, in my presentations on these topics I frequently offer my own preferences up as topics for examination, leading comfort to discussing issues relating to my perceived strengths or weaknesses. This openness allows me a forum for being acutely aware of my own shortcomings while enabling an objective view of a given situation and my perceptions of the situation.

Spears identifies the conceptualization characteristic of the servant-leader, the ability to “dream great dreams” (p. 144), as requiring practice for most leaders. The conceptual or vision framework is defining for me in that I have never been one to let the status quo stand in the way of my work or service to students. I am reminded of a long ago conference presentation where Edward “Chip” Anderson discussed what likely was the precursor to his strengths-based educating work (2005). He asked, “What would we do if we really loved our students?” “What would do if we truly loved our students?” Those questions helped to shape a direction for my students affairs work. They are questions that allow big thinking, which is frequently shot down by reality, but every once in a while leads to innovation and success.

Building community or finding group identity is cited as the responsibility of a leader to bring individuals together as they shift from local community to institutions as the shaper of lives (Spears, p. 145). I have success in helping students find this community by interweaving a dependence upon one another and have achieved similar outcomes with staff who were seeking identity and direction. Finding common ground and a common purpose are critical areas for advancing and supporting college success.

I was surprised to find myself identifying with so many of the Marine Corp Leadership Traits. But after a read-through, it is easy to see these traits as basic tenets of responsibility that any leader must possess for effectiveness and respect in their position.

Krulak (1998) defines decisiveness as easy to understand but not to be confused with inflexibility. I find that my ability of decisiveness, or being able to find closure or completion on a topic or problem, is a strength that helps groups and individuals process and move forward. I am able to gather and review information, reach a conclusion, and proceed with a course of action. The rapidity with which I am able to do this is disconcerting for some, so I find that I need to focus on helping others seek the information or validation they need move ahead.

The trait of endurance can mean “patience”, “going the distance”, and “taking the long view”, (Krulak, 1998, p. 9). As a leader, I have rarely asked my colleagues or employees to complete a task that I am unwilling to complete. This has meant all-night student retreats, fifteen-hour days, seventy-five hour weeks and so many weekends on duty that they become a blur. It likely means that I needed more staff to share these responsibilities, but it also means that we participate “where our students are” and provide more that just face time for students and colleagues.

Being an individual that others can look to for the trait of enthusiasm is fundamental for success in student affairs. My energy and ability to choose my attitude in most situations is imbued from large-group courses to my one-on-one interactions with students. If I want students to be excited and care about their education, I have to show the same excitement.

Although I can regularly display skills in listening and empathy, they are leadership areas where I have room for improvement. Spears (2000) emphasizes that servant-leaders have the ability to “listen to what is being said and not said” (p. 143). Strength in listening requires inner thought in addition to representing the will of the group. I sometimes struggle with listening or allowing individuals to completely present their thoughts before responding. My preference for quick processing of information and desire to seek closure contrasts with the need to include all ideas and contributions.

Spear points to empathy as accepting and recognizing people for their special and unique spirits (p. 143). Where I particularly find challenge with empathy is when behaviors are emotionally charged or enhanced. I frequently take a more logical and pragmatic approach to problems or circumstance and my linear viewpoint must stretch to help others find harmony in decisions. Listening and empathy are partner skills that I strive to develop with student and professional interactions.

Chaordic leadership, defined as the blend of chaos and order, follows many of the traits of servant-leadership and emphasizes that relationships and interactions are required for success. Specifically, it is the idea that without respect, authority can become destructive. Creativity can only succeed when we toss out old ideas making room for the new. Chaos and order are rational descriptions of our work in student affairs and higher education. This relationship of contrasting ideas is perhaps why I have found passion and excitement in my professional path. No two days are alike. No two students are alike.

I strive to mirror the behaviors of my mentors and the other leaders I have admired in my life. At this point in my career, it is sad to report that poor leadership is not uncommon in our profession. The goal then is to check and remove these behaviors from our own practice and move in new directions. There is a balance.

 

References

Krulak, C. C. (1998). The fourteen basic traits of effective leadership [Special section]. About Campus, 8-11.

Spears, L. C. (2000). Emerging characteristics of Servant-Leadership. In Kellerman, B. & Matusak, L. R. (Eds.) Cutting edge leadership 2000. (pp. 142-146). College Park: University of Maryland, James MacGregor Burns Academy of Leadership.

Let It Snow

Photo: Ken Libbrecht

Photo: Ken Libbrecht

Juno. Linus. Marcus. Our friends at The Weather Channel began naming winter storms in 2012 to aid communication during complex storm systems. And although I am not a fan of winter’s shorter days and wind chill, I appreciate the beauty and peacefulness of a snowfall despite the chaos major storms can wreak with travel, school, and safety.
Understanding the conditions and temperature that will produce certain snowflakes allows scientists to assist in the prediction of snowfall. Check out the latest snow science at SnowCrystals.com including beautiful photography and a primer on snowflake physics.  And yes, they can verify that no two snowflakes are alike.
Always remember that you are absolutely unique. Just like everyone else. ~Margaret Mead

Flipside

Photo: Alex Cornell

Designer and filmmaker Alex Cornell took amazing photographs of this flipped Antarctic iceberg last month and forever changed the way I look at ice. The beautiful clear gel of this colossal ice mass reminiscent of Smurf jello salad and the earrings I wore to my last formal is the remarkable alter ego of jagged white frost hiding just beneath the surface of the sea.
Does your day need a flipside? New project need a reset? Wish that last program could have a do-over? Even the worst day has a few shining moments; that email from a friend or a sunset on the drive home. The most tedious committee meeting has an opportunity to chat with a new colleague.
We need to turn things over to the B-side every once in a while and look below the surface. You never know what wonders may be lurking there.

Make Shift Happen

When I first began a career in student affairs, my director was a good and fair person, always supporting a life in balance. Work late for a program? Take a few hours of personal time the next day. Spend a weekend away at a conference? Be sure to take a personal day to catch up on things at home. As a supervisor, I have attempted to mirror this courtesy, believing that people, and family and lives, are more important than a 60-hour workweek. There will always be work to done, reports to write, and programs to plan.
The theme of work-life balance remains a popular topic among colleagues as we seek an adequate distribution. Too many friends make 10-12 hour work days a habit while answering the duty phone each weekend. While we advise students to choose a few extracurricular activities on which to focus, we disregard this advice and drive ourselves to exhaustion.
Clare Cady fired off a discussion on the topic, inviting us to shift our thinking.

I am of the school that work-life balance does not exist. There is life. Part of life for many of us includes work, hopefully in a field where we are happy and satisfied. But life is not about work — it is about living.

Bloom’s Where You Are Planted

Spent a morning with student affairs colleagues developing new program and learning outcomes to define our work in connection to university and division strategic plans. Beginning at the bottom of Bloom’s Revised Taxonomies (below), we crafted outcomes statements to link programs and goals to unit learning domains.
Student Affairs assessment is not spontaneous. It must be intentional and carefully defined to provide meaning for your unit and for your students. If  not, it becomes just another “so what” to toss on the shelf.

Blooms Taxonomy

Learning outcomes are all about the verbs. Check out this great list of Bloom’s Taxonomy Action Verbs.

 

Big Demands, High Expectations

lineinsandThat line in the sand… you know the one. That fine line between serving students and the need to separate work from personal time. The ability to decline that after-hours cell phone call or cut off the never ending stream of late night email requests that cannot wait until morning.
The expectations of millennial college students for synchronous customer service in an era of social media shaming takes a toll on student affairs professionals. Despite the satisfaction we derive from service to students, we cannot be on call 24 x 7 x 52. And yet students are only too willing to make a complaint, or worse yet, lambast our programs on Yik Yak. Where is the middle ground? Do we offer too little challenge with our abundance of support?
Don’t feel you must instantly respond to every student question and request. Sometimes it is good to encourage a student to THINK.