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.
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Acceptance rate

It began today. The messages were waiting when I checked the family email account this morning. Recruitment emails for my high school sophomore. College recruitment.
Looks like you took the PSAT. Clever. Starting the college search as a sophomore tells colleges that you’re serious about your future…
After a career in higher education, including admissions, I am supposed to be ready for this transition. Choosing a major, applying for scholarships, finding a “good fit” school. It’s a different story now. And I am not alone.
Admissions staff at Penn have discussed the college search process for their own children…
It can be challenging to be a strong self-advocate. All our lives we tell our kids to be humble and polite, but kids need to drive the application process and be self-promoting in this process so they don’t get lost in the shuffle. If you don’t assert yourself in the college search process or application, no one else will do it for you.  ~Jodi Robinson
Good advice.

Cold nose, warm heart

As the January wind howls and daily highs hover in the single digits, it’s nice to know our lovely city is among those with a coldest average low temperature during the winter months. Cold nose, warm heart.

Winter in Iowa

65° F:
Floridians turn on the heat.
People in Iowa plant gardens.
60° F:
Californians shiver uncontrollably.
People in Iowa sunbathe.
50° F:
Italian & English cars won’t start.
People in Iowa drive with the windows down, radio blasting.
40° F:
Georgians don coats, thermal underwear, gloves, and wool hats.
People in Iowa throw on a long sleeve shirt.
35° F:
New York City landlords finally turn on the heat.
People in Iowa have the last cookout before it gets cold.
20° F:
People in Miami all die.
Iowans close the windows.

Arizonans vacation in Hawaii and Mexico.
People in Iowa get out their winter coats.
-10° F:
Hollywood disintegrates.
Girl Scouts in Iowa are selling cookies door to door.
-20° F:
Washington, D.C. runs out of hot air.
People in Iowa let the dogs sleep indoors.
-30° F:
Santa Claus abandons the North Pole.
Iowans are upset because they can’t start the snowmobile.
-40° F:
All atomic motion stops.
People in Iowa begin conversations with…”cold enough fer ya?”
-50° F:
Hell freezes over.
Iowa public schools open 2 hours late.
State universities remain open for business.

 

Too awesome not to share…

Iowa in January

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.

Price of admission

College has been on my mind lately with a high school-aged child exploring potential majors (insert major expletive or two). It would make sense that a career in higher education would contribute to some expertise in this area, but rules are complex for a high-ability student. They involve admission indexes and national scholarship competitions; areas that were not on my college search radar. Competition today is fierce. Parenting today is hard.
Why do you have to be so accomplished to get into college?

A year of accomplishments, scatterplots, new resolutions

Poor, sad, little neglected blog. I used to think that I did not have time for writing while I finished my dissertation. This year demonstrated that a preoccupied mind prevents reflection as well. I have been working on this draft for many days and struggling to verbalize the happy and not so happy of it all. Americans are supposed to be the outlier on the happy scale, more upbeat about their days than most people. When we are not in that place, it can be hard.

FT_GDP_Scatterplot

At the end of last year, I was not selected for a promotion that I fiercely wanted and had stringently prepared. It was a position I had strived for in the past, only to be discouraged from applying due to lack of a terminal degree. This “job” was not the driving force behind completing my Ph.D., but the degree was one of a series of steps that I took to prepare for a “next step” in my career. Side note, being rejected from a dream job five days before holiday vacation is not ideal for one’s self-esteem and seasonal jocularity. I recommend against it all costs.
This year began with a new boss (not getting the “job” meant working for the person who did) and the adjustments that come with a change in leadership. It also began with a new opportunity.
A position with an education non-profit came on the horizon and a new job search began. For those of us who lament the prodigious time required for campus employment, this process reached new heights. Non-profits include a scaffolding of decision makers. Whether in discussion with a screening committee, organization leaders, elected board, and the membership; each audience sought a different answer and a different set of skills. The job posted in January and concluded with a hire announcement in late September (more on this later). A colleague termed it as the job search that rivaled a pregnancy.
Meanwhile, real life work this year included financial shortfalls, intense budget negotiations, staff reorganization to address financial shortfalls, a staff member on family leave, and a staff member following a partner to new employment. Even knowing in advance, it is difficult to prepare for the transition of a dedicated colleague. Rewriting position descriptions, preparing a search committee, waiting on HR approvals, the calendar was inching along. And all of this while attending to the needs of smart and amazing students (who sometimes have tragic days) and doing my best to be a good leader and mentor for the amazing student staff and graduate assistants that I am lucky to employ. The wiser than her years, Stacy Oliver-Sikorski, recently opined “There are really awful days amidst the really great days, and we need to be more honest with ourselves and others about that.”
Facing those “awful” days and separating work from family needs was complicated this year. I am enormously grateful for a loving and supportive partner who keeps me grounded. I am happy and proud to be mom to an amazing teen and tween who are high achieving and in search of their strengths. They are my most important work every day.
I will be embarking on a new adventure in the not so distant future. Despite every obstacle, 2014 will be remembered on the happy scale as the year that I resolved to get my dream job. And succeeded.
More soon. Happy 2015!