Decision Making in Student Affairs

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?

Twitter me this…tools for campus

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?

Have the time of your life!

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.
~Green Day

A funny thing happened at the awards ceremony

We recently hosted a celebration for the learning community peer mentors on our campus. Our campus offers many learning communities linking courses and residence halls and this ceremony is an annual event to honor the student leaders in the academic units and courses. The mentors are nominated for the awards by their professors, course coordinators, and also their students.

As with many ceremonies, some students are able to attend, some have schedule conflicts. This year, we had an opportunity to honor a student who was a mentor last fall and then graduated at semester. At first he was not able to attend, but when he checked in and picked up his nametag, our committee made certain that his award was added to the program for presentation.

The student’s name was announced and he made his way to the podium while glowing praise was read from his award recommendation letters. He was one of the students who dressed up for the event, even donning a tie. The student accepted his certificate and paused for photos with the other student award recipients.

But it was the wrong guy.

You see, when the nominated peer mentor graduated last December, his university email account was closed. When notification was sent to award recipients, the email bounced to a student with the same name. This student with the same name believes he was nominated for and won an award, because we told him that he did. He then dressed up, attended the awards ceremony, and accepted an award to much fanfare and applause. If the learning community coordinator had not been there to discretely mention that he wasn’t the correct student, we would never have known.

Lessons to learn? Double-checking email addresses is pretty obvious. But what do we learn from a student who accepts an award that he has not earned? Is there a message here about the need to be noticed among a sea of faces on the university campus? I’ll take it as a special reminder that all of our students deserve recognition and appreciation. And perhaps they need it more than once a year at awards ceremonies.

Getting to know you? Create a cover story!

Here is a great idea for getting to know a new class of students at the beginning of the semester: ask students to create a magazine cover! It comes from Barbara Nixon, an assistant professor at Georgia Southern. I follow Barbara’s blog and on Twitter because she is always sharing great gems such as this assignment for her Public Relations course. I may utilize the concept to introduce our peer leaders to new first-year students, still letting the idea percolate. 

Of course, I am partial to magazine covers. The image above is the birth announcement for my son (created without the handy-dandy website!)

Peer Leader Prep Talk

It was energizing to be back in the office today and begin preparations for the semester. We teach a leadership development course each spring for the students selected as peer mentors in our program for the upcoming year. The course introduces concepts of peer leadership enhanced with student development theory and personal discovery through MBTI and EQ-i assessment. 

We selected a new text for the course after five years, so winter break has been spent defining the chapters and assignments for the syllabus. The new book offers interesting case studies with each chapter to utilize for group discussion assignments. 

In addition to work on the syllabus, I have been rereading Delaney Kirk’s Taking Back the Classroom. It has great ideas for preparing peer mentors for the reality of the classroom. Coincidentally, Dr. Kirk posted 6 Tips For The First Day of Class on her blog today. Here’s a list, but be sure to check out the details.

1. Develop Your Philosophy of Teaching

2. Establish Your Credibility
3. Determine Your Class Culture
4. Be Clear about Your Expectations
5. Use the First Day of Class Wisely
6. Handle Discipline Problems Right Away
How do you develop peer leaders on your campus?

End-of-the-year Bonus

At the final semester banquet for our student leaders, lots of fun stories and jokes from throughout the past year were shared. These students were part of a year-long program of leadership and development training that includes first-year seminar course facilitation in the fall semester. 

As we were enjoying dessert, one of our seniors, Adam, mentioned that in his last class he shared with his students that I was the reason he was still in college. His co-leader, Kelsey, chimed in that Adam had indeed given a presentation on how he had made it through college with my help. Curious as to the reasoning, I asked Adam how I was of influence. 

“You kicked my butt. And you didn’t stop kicking my butt until I straightened out.”

You see, Adam had a little difficulty with academic focus early on in his college career. We spent many an afternoon chatting about goals, grades, and graduation and why his current choices were not getting him closer to any of them. Eventually, Adam got it figured out. This year he is president of the academic club in his major in addition to serving as a peer mentor in our program. He will graduate in May.

And that is why I do what I do. The financial rewards in higher education will never rival CEO pay. Our hours are crazy, we don’t travel in private jets, and the temperature control in our buildings never seems to coincide with the season. But every once in a while, we get these little gems of appreciation from students that remind us that we touch lives. And kick butt. Which makes for a pretty nice end-of-the-year bonus in my book.