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.

What’s your #SAmbti?

A new hashtag, #SAmbti, recently evolved in the Student Affairs Twitter community to promote the discussion of psychological type preferences. The MBTI is a frequent badge of honor and topic of conversation among the #SACHAT collective on Twitter. I have noted the preferences of more than 100 student affairs colleagues during these conversations and will add this information to a newly created #SAmbti doc and invite you to join the fun.

Add your own preferences and follow #SAmbti for the type conversation.

Don’t know your MBTI? Drop me a line and I will  connect you with a certified MBTI type practitioner for your own facilitation.

MBTI in Student Affairs #SAmbti

A new hashtag, #SAmbti, was created in the Student Affairs Twitter community this week promoting the discussion of psychological type preferences. Understanding differences of psychological type and how type pertains to personal style and interactions is useful in a variety of work and social situations, but particularly in student affairs, a field that has a strategic service function. The assessment of psychological type is based on the theory that human behavior is not random and that patterns of mental functions exist in the population (Jung, 1971). Put simply, individuals have different motivations and processes for getting through the day, but will follow certain configurations.

The 93-item Form M Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® (MBTI®)  is the most common instrument for determining psychological type preferences utilized in business, personal coaching and higher education. It asks a series of self-report forced-choice questions to define opposing preferences for personal energy, acquiring information, making decisions, and organizing one’s world (read more on the preferences here). Based upon responses to these questions, an individual is assigned a type preference for each pair of opposites which when combined become one of 16  four-letter type codes.

For the stats geeks among us, this type table shows the national sample distribution of type preferences and also male and female percentages of the population. As an ENTJ female, it was reassuring to find that I really do think differently than the rest of the world.

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Jung, C. G. (1971). Psychological Types. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Myers, I. B., McCaulley, M. H. Quenk, N. L., & Hammer, A. L. (1998). MBTI manual: A guide to the development and use of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. Palo Alto, CA: Consulting Psychologists Press.

Finding your Student Affairs compass

We speak a lot about the meteoric rise of student affairs professionals communicating on Twitter. Within #SACHAT, our participant numbers have grown 500% since our October 2009 debut. We have so many colleagues engaged that we had to add a second chat time three months into the venture. Our #SACHAT meet-ups are occurring around the spring professional conferences and organically as our student affairs family find themselves in similar locations.

I had an opportunity to meet several of our #SACHAT friends in conjunction with the ACUI conference and spent some time exploring New York City with one of those friends. We made a day of it, walking and sharing stories, stopping for lunch, shopping a bit, and before you knew it, found ourselves uncertain how to make our way back to the car. We stood at a busy street corner, attempting to get our bearings. We asked a passerby for directions and then headed off to find our way. After covering quite a few more blocks and not yet seeing any landmarks leading to the car, it dawned on me that I could use the map function on my phone to aid our quest. This handy little GPS tool is not essential for navigation in my small Midwest city, so I had forgotten that I had it.

We determined our present location, entered an address for the parking garage, and lo and behold, walking directions were magically provided. So, we started out again in the direction of our vehicle, enjoying the city scenery, chatting, and enjoying the day. Only to miss a turn and get off track, again. Ah, but this time we had the map and directions. We backtracked, paid more attention to our map, and finally made our way back to the car.

Early in my student affairs career, I found easy ways to network with colleagues. I joined professional organizations, served on committees, and chatted regularly with colleagues at other institutions as we planned trainings and conferences. As I advanced in my career, it seems that I lost some of those opportunities, as my own work required more of my time and focus. At some point along the way, I lost track of most of my network, also losing the community that helped me brainstorm and recharge with energy and new ideas.

Then along comes a social networking tool like Twitter and fun little communities such as the Student Affairs Blog and #SACHAT. Once again, I am linked with other professionals, sharing ideas, and learning new ways to do things. I am engaged in building a community that challenges and inspires me. It is a community that grew through social network technology and like a GPS, helped me find my way.

Like a box of chocolates

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 admissions tour guide as an undergraduate later led to a position as an admissions recruiter for a small private college. I like to think that working in admissions, helping students with their college decision-making, is where I honed facilitation skills that are critical to my current work. I had a couple of gigs as a director of admissions before turning my sights to program coordination.

Stanford business 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 an 18-year old in college 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 and orientation 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 paper 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 it really stuck with me.

Student Affairs is:

  • Being a generalist in helping, listening, organizing, and facilitating, while a specialist in your position.
  • Never growing up 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, engaging, and understanding 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.

How do you define your work in student affairs?

Divine 2009…Zen 2010?

Reflecting on 2009, there is much to celebrate, but many more reasons to be excited for the year ahead.

Adventures in student success and the first-year seminar: I may have mentioned a time or two that I work with the best students in the world. They challenge and inspire me every day of the year. I love my job.
Road trip with 120 students
Digital Storytelling Project
Tom Krieglstein
Vernon Wall
Marshmallow Wars

Adventures in Student Affairs: With tight budgets and reduced funding, most of my professional development in 2009 did not cost a cent. I interact daily with wonderful student affairs professionals and treasure their connections.
Class with John Schuh

Adventures in Type: I made inspiring connections through MBTI and the Association for Psychological Type International (APTi) in 2009 and volunteered for some new professional duties.
APTi Conference
Vice President for Professional Development, APTi eChapter
Director of Communications, APTi
Collaboration with Dan Robinson

Year’s end is neither an end nor a beginning but a going on, with all the wisdom that experience can instill in us. ~Hal Borland

Facebook for Orientation Webinar Recap

This post originally appeared at The Student Affairs Blog.

I had the pleasure of joining a “Facebook for Orientation” Webinar with Jennifer Sherry of Virginia Commonwealth and Beth Oakley with University of Windsor. While my colleagues shared how Facebook can be utilized at the university and department level to communicate and engage students, I shared the use of Facebook in a first-year seminar for community building and networking within a specific program.  

Much of my campus time is spent coordinating a
 scholarship program that enrolls 100 new students each year (I should be reading applications right now). These students have long been Facebook users, as I shared here. Inspired by ideas from Tania Dudina over at the Student Leader Blog, I took advantage of that Facebook comfort and created a social networking assignment for the course last fall.

To introduce the topic, I shared my own social networks and links for our program Facebook accounts, a
 group and a profile. This video explanation of social networks was helpful and moved the emphasis beyond Facebook privacy settings to the actual functions of a social network. 

Social Networking Assignment

1. Identify and join a new social network. Try Facebook, if not already a member (98% were Facebook users).

  • A list of networks is available here.
  • Upon creating your new social network profile, identify 5 new friends or links. Make a screenshot of your new network homepage, save as a jpg, attach, and submit via email.

2. Now that you are on Facebook, locate an alumni/ae of the program with whom to link.

  • Interview your new alumni link regarding their advice for first-year students, favorite memories, motivational quotes or career choices.
  • Create a PowerPoint slide of your alumni interview highlights. Submit it as an email attachment.

Response to this assignment was favorable and students researched a variety of creative networks. Many of our alumni are new Facebook users and enjoyed the opportunity to link back with the program. Next fall we will include the alumni assignment and may introduce blogging and wikis. We’ll see where it takes us.

Many thanks to the folks at Swift Kick for coordinating the webinar!

Facebook for Orientation webinar

I am joining a panel of student affairs folks for a webinar titled Facebook for Orientation today. Each of us will share a little about how we utilize the Facebook network for linking with our new students at enrollment and beyond. The webinar is sponsored by the very cool people at SwiftKick, creators of RedRover and founders of the Student Affairs Blog. It will be at 12 noon CST. Join us to share in the discussion!

Register here.