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
Some days it’s the little things. Like discovering that you packed extra underwear when weather delays your travel leaving you stranded far from home. Or when you get an email out of the blue from a student you have not heard from in a while.
I’m writing to thank you and the Hixson program for all that you have given me. Not just the class, the opportunity to be a seminar leader or the scholarship money, but also the staff. Yesterday, I was in the student lab doing a little homework when your graduate assistant came in and I had a really great talk with him, just about how our semesters were going. Anyway, it makes me really appreciate the program and especially the people surrounding the program.
In a seminar course required of students in my doctoral program, we spent a day on problem solving and creativity. Professor John Nash took us through an exercise that originated with the Stanford d.school where we used problem solving and then design thinking to create the perfect wallet for a student partner.
Our exercise included:
Interviewing a partner to engage them and gather insights about wallet use
Defining and articulating a point of view based on the interview insights
Sketching new alternatives based on the point of view
Testing ideas with our partner to gather feedback
Acting on the feedback and building a wallet prototype from art supplies
There was a day last week when my work day began at 5:45 a.m. with a two and a half hour drive to a meeting and concluded fifteen hours later in a final class meeting with our very talented peer mentors. And I was smiling. Because on days like that, I’ve gotta feeling that I have the best job in the world.
The peer mentors that work with our scholarship program make me exceedingly proud. They are a selfless, giving, hardworking bunch, doing what they do for recogntion only. They are students of character.
Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experiences of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired and success achieved. ~Helen Keller
Like many institutions, my university participates in the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) to measure programs and activities that enhance student learning and personal development. The purpose of NSSE is to help identify areas to improve the undergraduate experience in and out of the classroom.
The scholarship program that I coordinate hosts a first-year seminar course each fall for the 100 recipients of the award. The course is loosely based on the University 101 model framed by John Gardner when he was at the University of South Carolina. It follows an orientation and transition format and includes community-building activities for our program. We have a large group lecture for one hour each week and students meet in recitation groups of a dozen students for a second hour weekly.
In the NSSE spirit of enhancing the course experience and engaging our students, we try to integrate fun and a bit of technology for student projects. Our latest adventure was digital storytelling. Staff and peer mentors selected random movie genres, and a student from each recitation section drew from the genre options. We shared examples of digital storytelling and creating storyboards. We suggested task assignments such as videographer, actor, writer, and film editing to help the project go more smoothly. We made certain to review campus computer labs for the appropriate editing software in advance and provided this information to students. Finally, we stocked up on sale priced Flip Camcorders and gave this assignment to students:
Create a media project that embodies the transition to college and your first semester experience.
Final Project: No longer than 5 minutes and must include a flash mob.
The final productions were screened during our class “Film Festival” complete with popcorn and soda. Students were encouraged to vote for “Best Picture” and create award categories to fit the projects. Winning productions were featured on our student-run cable news channel.
There were a few bumpy roads throughout the ten-week project, but overall the response and student evaluations of the project assured us that students were engaged and most importantly, community was achieved. On an unexpected side note, our first semester grade point average rose to the highest level in five years, with no change in entering student academic profile. Of course we already look forward to repeating the project with our next student cohort.
Check out the final productions and let me know what you think.
I was approached last week by one of our peer mentors who had scheduling difficulties with leadership responsibilities he had in other organizations. As the discussion progressed, my graduate assistant and I listened, nodded, and were ready to address how we could work with the student to find some scheduling middle ground. To our surprise, the student felt it was best that he resign from his position. I could tell he had given this a lot of thought, so I confirmed his intent, thanked him for his candor, and upon his departure, immediately jumped into action.
“Pull the updated course schedules of all peer mentors,” I quickly instructed a student assistant as I began scrolling through my cell phone numbers to contact the student’s co-leader. While schedules were being printed, I sent a text to the co-leader for a meeting after her classes. As I dashed between offices, checking class time availability and sending text replies, I stuck my head back in the door of my office where my graduate assistant was still seated.
“Do you want to sit down and process this so we can decide what to do,” he asked?
Sandy McMullen addresses questions like these over at Personality Plus in Business. Sandy, an artist and consultant, shares that the MBTI decision making functions of Thinking and Feeling have equal worth even though the quick deciding “Thinkers” are frequently valued in the workplace. She discusses the linear, logical processes utilized by those with the Thinking preference are in contrast to the more subjective review of values and merits required for those with a Feeling preference. Recognizing and using both of these processes can actually benefit our decision making.
Acknowledging that my graduate assistant was using his Feeling preference and was still in processing mode, I took a few steps back to invite a discussion as to what our next steps should be, even though, with my Thinking preference, I had already arrived there. We were able to have a good chuckle over viewing our preferences “in action”.
What does your decision making function look like?
Found a great list of tools for utilizing Twitter in the classroom this week. Many of these applications would be fun for first-year seminar activities, but I think I may do some investigating for adding a dimension to our peer leadership course.
What is your experience with Twitter in the classroom? Any favorites on this list?
Congratulations to the 2009 Hixson Scholars who begin the first day of their college career today. You should be very proud of the accomplishments that brought you to this point. There are a lot of people at home and here on campus who are really pulling for you, so make this opportunity count. There are fifteen peer mentors in our program who are as eager to meet you as I am. They are some of smartest student leaders with whom I have ever worked, so I know they will be great resources for you.
Don’t worry about dropping your tray in the dining center, getting on the wrong CyRide Bus, or getting lost on the way to class. Those things happen to everyone and we all survive. Focus on the big picture, the adventure on which you have embarked. See you in class tonight!
It’s something unpredictable but in the end it’s right. I hope you have the time of your life.