No “I” in TEAM.

I am reading the article Individuals Perform Better When Focused on Team. It has a lot of relevance for my children’s soccer games, but it also resonates with our student leadership course and especially for working with my colleagues in student affairs. Try changing your “I” to a “We” today and see what you can accomplish.

By focusing on the team, you include yourself without putting the focus or extra pressure on yourself. ~Deborah Feltz

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 our 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

Tornado Watch: Assessments for Student Retention

As a resident of tornado alley, there is a summer tradition of dusting off the Twister DVD while scanning the afternoon skies for possible wall clouds. The film takes place in Oklahoma, but was filmed near my current home in central Iowa. The story follows a team of meteorological students and scientists as they attempt to place weather sensors in the path of a tornado to measure readings inside of the storm. After many failed attempts, injuries, and even fatalities, our protagonists successfully launch the sensors and save humanity. Err, save their research. As the flick can also be caught at least three times a week on cable during the summer, I catch up on all of my favorite lines.

Jo: [cow flies by in the storm) Cow.
[cow flies by in the storm]
Jo: ‘Nother cow.
Bill: Actually, I think it was the same one.
Watching the segment as the sensors rise into the F-5 tornado and begin generating data, I am reminded of our students, particularly those in the first-year. If we could read their minds and extrapolate the whirlwind of thoughts and emotions, surely we could develop better methods for student success and retention. Fortunately, there are a variety of assessments to assist in this process.

The College Student Inventory™ (CSI) from Noel-Levitz allows students to answer questions regarding their strengths and challenges before they even arrive on campus. I ask my incoming students to complete this assessment after summer orientation and use the information to frame our beginning of the year 1:1 appointments. The student and advisor reports are handy for discussion and the group summary reports provide great information for planning our first-year seminar course and programming topics.

MAP-Works® offers a similar tool to discover student transition issues early in the semester. Students develop a personal profile based on their initial campus experience that is measured for potential barriers to success. A web-based report is generated immediately for students and faculty or staff advisors that compares with all first-year students on our campus. Campus resource services are suggested where needed.

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® (MBTI®) helps demonstrate theory that there are distinct patterns to individual psychological types even though persons exhibit these patterns in different ways. Helping students to understand their type preferences and how they affect personal learning styles provides a common ground for understanding differences and the transition to college. I provide an MBTI learning styles assessment for each student in our first-year seminar each fall. Students do not always grasp the type concept, but do find meaning from discussion of the transition to university style learning.

It is common knowledge among student affairs practitioners that students enter the college or university with varying degrees of emotional intelligence. Additionally, those familiar with retention issues will cite non-academic challenges as the frequent impetus for student attrition. Assessing emotional intelligence using the EQ-i® allows students to see potential areas for growth that may enhance adaptation and coping skills leading to academic achievement. I find the EQ-i particularly helpful for students seeking direction in their academic or life plan.

While no assessment tool can foresee every difficulty faced by our students on the path to graduation, I have found these tools to be helpful for communication, planning, and advising. Not a certified MBTI or EQ-i user? Check with your human resources office for recommendations.

Have you tried these assessments? Other tools you suggest?

Enjoyed Twister and need a good summer read? Check out The Stormchasers.

Some choices we live not only once…

Our university town has been struck with two tragedies in the last week. The circumstances of these events were live changing and in one case, life ending.

The first, an out of control post-high school graduation party, resulted in a local all-state football star disarming a police officer. The 18 year-old, a recent graduate, now faces four felony charges. The second incident involved a 19-year old visiting friends in a high rise apartment next to campus. He fell seven floors to his death in an elevator shaft.

These situations were framed with bad decisions, wrong choices; choices that could likely have been avoided. In student affairs, we work with students every day who when faced with opportunities to self-regulate independence, do not have the experience or maturity to make wise decisions. Decisions that follow and frame their lives.

Sadly, I guess that is part of what keeps us in business.

Some choices we live not once but a thousand times over, remembering them for rest of our lives. ~Richard Bach

Emotional Intelligence and Stress Management

Following my recent foray into the study of Emotional Intelligence (EI), I have become acutely aware of circumstances when low EI is demonstrated. Earlier this week, a friend on Twitter shared an article highlighting a college student who was fired from an internship who reacted with verbal threats and by kicking in a glass door. The angry response demonstrated in this situation could be defined as a symptom of low Stress Management ability, one of the scales of EI.   

Stress management, or the controlling of one’s emotions and impulses and adapting to changing circumstances, is comprised of two sub-scales, stress tolerance and impulse control. In the situation of the intern, the violent and threatening response to a firing situation may demonstrate a lack of ability to cope with daily stressors and confrontation. Awareness of one’s Stress Management ability, or lack thereof, is essential in understanding EI.  

Regardless of the circumstance, my hope is that college students who find themselves fired from an internship can learn from this incident and find more positive methods of facing the situation.

New in the Toolbox: Emotional Intelligence

My spare time this month has been used to prepare for and complete certification in the use of the Emotional Quotient inventory or 
EQ-i. Emotional-social intelligence is a cross-section of interrelated emotional and social competencies, skills, and facilitators that determine how effectively we understand and express ourselves, understand and relate with others, and cope with daily demands. Understanding and assessing EQ in business and leadership coaching is common and research indicates that that the tool is equally useful in the academic setting with an 85% predictor rate for college success. I look forward to building expertise with this assessment and employing it to assist the transition of my first-year students.

The EQ-i is assessed through an online survey resulting in measurements of five areas: interpersonal, intrapersonal, stress management, adaptability, and general mood. Fifteen subscales or facets provide dimension to these scale areas.

EQ-i will join the College Student Inventory and MAP-Works in the toolbox of assessments that I rely upon for identifying issues challenging students in those first few crucial weeks of college. The College Student Inventory provides me with timely and strategic information on my students prior to their enrollment. Most importantly, it allows me to identify those with high need for student service intervention. MAP-Works is offered to students in the third week of enrollment and is a new complement to our campus retention initiatives. It aggregates student perception upon arrival and integration to the institution. Both surveys are great mediums for creating relationships with new students.

I will introduce the proportions of the EQ-i in greater depth with future posts.

What’s in your student retention toolbox?