Thursday, November 8, 2012

Complete Honesty brings forth Complete Healing

During the 2012 GLACUHO Annual Conference, I had the honor of serving on a panel focused on the recruitment and retention of Women of Color. The facilitators of the panel set the tone in the room by explaining to the audience that they wanted the session to not only be a safe space, but a real space. This meant that they wanted individuals to feel comfortable asking questions and dialouging about topics that make people uncomfortable or are viewed as taboo. After the session was over, I begin to stew about the notion of "real talk" and it made me recollect on my expereince at the National Conference on Race and Ethnicity in American Higher Education (NCORE) in 2011.
When you attend NCORE, you know exactly what you are getting into...the title says it all. You come prepared to discuss race, ethnicity, and other topics that may make individuals uncomfortable. What I loved most about NCORE was the open and honest conversation that people were engaging in on taboo topics such as race, class, gender, sexual orientation, and religion. Oftentimes whether we are in a staff meeting, training session, or at a conference and one of these topics comes up people continue to make sure they are politically is always difficult to have a straightforward honest discussion because someone is in fear of being offensive or being offended.

I attended a couple of sessions that were focused on "Real Talk" at NCORE. This meant that the conversation was going to be blunt, honest, quite possibly abrasive and that there was a possibility that someone would be offended within the session. What is so ironic is that even though I went into those sessions nervous about how the conversation was going to flow, those were the sessions that I learned the most in.

Lee Mun Wah, an amazing diversity trainer and presenter said something in his session on The Future of Diversity Training that continues to stick with me. He said that complete healing comes from complete honesty. As I chewed on this a little more and thought about it in the context of diversity issues and cultural competency I begin to realize that the only way for us as a society to really begin to tackle our issues of race, class, gender, for us to open up and make ourselves uncomfortable and talk about it.
Now after attending GLACUHO, I am back to processing what it means to truly have completely honest conversations in order to begin to work through the issues within our society. After the recent election, it is evident that we still have a long way to go. I was saddened by the many racist comments posted on twitter after the re-election of our president. Comments posted by high school students, who will be living in my residence halls in the near future. How do I help them to have honest conversations about their views and personal biases? How do I help my colleagues and my peers to understand that these conversations are not restricted to a conference due to the focus of the contemporary issue? 
I did not write this blog post to provide the answers, but simply to spark thought. At GLACUHO we were charged by our current President, Grant Walters, to make GLACUHO history everyday. As you go back to your home campus and come down from your GLACUHO high and the administrative tasks build up and your students begin to occupy your time once again, I encourage you to take some time to reflect on how you will facilitate conversation and spark thought amongst your students and colleagues. How will you open the door for complete honestly so complete healing can take place?

Monday, July 16, 2012

My Day One: Based on the blog post "Day One" by Ann Marie Klotz

Whenever Ann Marie Klotz offers guidance, I listen. As a woman that I admire and look up to you, I seek her out for guidance when I am navigating a tough situation, struggling to make a decision, or just need an extra boost to push through. When Ann Marie blogged about navigating the first day on a new job, I made sure to take notes as I would be navigating my own first day weeks later.

Fast forward to Monday, July 9, 2012, my first full day of employment at my newest institution and I replayed the words “Today is your statement day” in my head numerous times as I prepared for my day.

First, I thought about my appearance. Knowing that my first day was going to be scorching hot with temperatures in the 90s, I decided that I wanted to be as comfortable as possible while also maintaining a certain level of professionalism. Wearing a well tailored suit would have made a great impression but it would not have matched the culture of my department. I opted for something colorful, comfortable, and polished. Not only did my dress match my personality but it is one of my favorites to wear so I felt extremely confident throughout the course of my day.

Second, I focused my attention on my attitude. I made sure that I got a good night’s rest so I wasn’t grumpy. I continued to remind myself I was hired for a reason which helped to eliminate my nervousness. I focused my attention on my new environment, my new colleagues, and the new opportunities coming my way. This invoked excitement for me and helped me maintain a positive outlook throughout my transitioning period.

Next, I focused my mindset on learning. It is important when you go into a new position at a new institution that you are open to new things and do not focus too much on your past experiences. Over lunch I asked questions of colleagues and I was intentional about scheduling time to talk with individuals about the institution and the department during my free time.

Finally, I prepared myself to be uncomfortable. As a midlevel staff member I arrived a week prior to the entry level staff. Formal staff training was not scheduled until the second week so my first few days were more about me finding my way and getting comfortable with my new surroundings. At first this unstructured time was uncomfortable for me; however as I begin to find my way, talk to people, and determine some priorities for myself I begin to adapt and transition better.

Now as I embark on my second full week and begin formal training I will continue to follow a lot of these steps that I have taken while also beginning to map out my priorities and goals for the next few weeks.  In the words of Ann Marie Klotz “day one was a success”. I am looking forward to my next few months and sharing with you all my struggles, victories, and lessons learned as I transition into a new position.

Ann Marie Klotz's blog post "Day One" can be found here:

Monday, July 2, 2012

Let's talk about Supervision: Lessons for the New HD/CD

Supervision of my Resident Assistant staff takes up about 50% of time throughout the work week. As a Community/Hall/Residence Director you are going to find that supervision of student staff members is going to be a major aspect of your job responsibilities. This works for me because I am a very student-centered professional and I enjoy the time I spend helping my staff members to develop and ensure that we are giving all that we can to our residents.

As a new CD/HD/RD it can be challenging to come into a new environment and connect with all of your staff members. I remember my first year as a CD at SIUE. I had the daunting task of supervising a staff of 14 RAs. At least 50% of my staff were returning staff members. I must admit that I was nervous. I was unsure of whether or not they were going to accept me, if they would be reluctant to change, and if I would be able to connect with and meet the needs of all 14 of them. Throughout the course of the first year we connected, bonded, and grew together. Yes, we had some rocky moments but we were able to work through effectively.

Determining your supervision style as a new professional and learning how to effectively supervise a variety of students can be challenging. We all want to ensure that we are meeting our students needs while also challenging and supporting them to provide quality service and enriching learning opportunities for their residents/peers.

As I end my third year as a CD, I have learned many valuable lessons about supervision specifically how to effectively supervise undergraduate students. I am going to share a couple of those lessons with you, but I encourage you to take the time to ask questions of peers and mentors in order to help you to determine your own supervision style.

1. Eliminate the Nerves!
For many of you this may be the first time that you are supervising a staff solely on your own and you are probably nervous or fearful that you will fail. Your students will since your nervousness and this may cause them to doubt your ability to lead them. You are where you are because you are skilled and talented. Be confident in your ability to supervise and lead. No one is perfect, and no one is expecting you to be perfect. The best way that I found to ease my tension the first few times I was with my staff was to begin our sessions with fun mindless activities and games. For instance you can play some rounds of heads up/seven up or catch phrase. This will help you and your staff to become comfortable. Remember that if you are nervous, they may be just as nervous if not more.

2. Stop talking about the past
Everyone knows that you have a great background, but your new staff does not want to hear about all the amazing things you did at your old institution. Keep your focus on your current staff and the future. Talking about your past staff and past institution may led your new staff to believe that you do not want to be with them. Instead of constantly talking about how awesome you are or the great things that you have done, just show them! Remember actions speak louder than words.

3. Listen!
Listening is going to be a very important skill to have as you begin building relationships with your new staff members. Take some time to learn how they did things before you arrived. Remember if you come into your new position trying to change every single thing they may be resistant. Allow them to share with you what they liked and did not like about the previous year. It is important that your staff know where you stand and your philosophy and expectations; however it is equally important for you to give them time to express their vision and expectations as well. When you provide your staff with the opportunity to talk and you listen to them, you make them feel valued.

4. Have Professional Trust
Remember that even though you may not have selected/hired your staff members, they were hired for a reason. Have faith that they are capable of doing their jobs successfully. Many people dislike being micromanaged. Try your best to control the urge to micromanage your staff. By trusting in their ability, you provide them with the opportunity to prove to you that they are good staff members. Give them that opportunity to show you how awesome they are.

5. Be clear about expectations
Develop clear, concise, and realistic expectations of your staff members and present them early on, preferably during training. Be sure that your staff members understand how you plan to hold them accountable if they do not meet the expectations set before them; however make sure that your expectations and your accountability matches up with the expectations set by the department.

6. Be clear about boundaries
Boundaries can become a major concern for live-in staff. It is important that you have this conversation with your staff early on. Be sure that they understand the importance of work-life balance for you and for themselves. Talk with them about your office balance (are you ok with them dropping in or do you prefer they set up meetings), talk with them about your apartment (are you ok if they stop by unannounced or is your home completely off limits to staff), talk with them about the usage of your cell phone number and your social media accounts (will you allow your staff members to text you, if so at what times and do you plan to add staff members as facebook friends or not). These are very important conversations to have with your staff because it will set the tone for the year. As a live in professional work-life balance is key to being healthy.

7. Learn their personalities
I am a firm believer that supervision is individualistic. We will not treat all of our supervisees the exact same, but they will all receive what they need to be a success. By learning the individual personalities of your staff members, you will learn how to best interact with them and how to supervise them. Take some time during your one on one meetings to learn about their likes/dislikes, their personal backgrounds, their goals, etc...During staff meetings and training sessions complete assessments like True Colors, Strengthsquest and The Five Love Languages. Not only will this help your staff to feel valued because you are personally trying to connect with them, but it will also give you a better glimpse into their needs and wants when it comes to interaction from their supervisor.

8. Apologize when necessary.
This can be challenging for some professionals, but it is a great trait to develop. Being humble with your student staff members will allow them to trust you more.

9. Have Fun
We work hard and our supervisees work hard too! Have fun with them whether through staff bonding time, staff outings, send them a funny joke in an email, or just laugh and share silly stories during a one on one. They will appreciate seeing you as a regular person and not just their supervisor and this will help strengthen your relationship with them individually but also strengthen the dynamics of your staff as a whole.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Attitude Determines Altitude

The 2012 NASPA African American Women’s Summit was a life changing experience for me. So many lessons learned and nuggets of wisdom that I still continue to think about and find ways to apply to both my personal and professional life; however one of the most valuable lessons I learned during that day was the importance of choosing my Attitude.

Numerous times throughout the session various speakers would quote the following: “Attitude Determines Altitude.” At the time I kind of understood what the phrase meant but it was not until I came home and really delved deeper into the meaning of the two words that I understood its true impact.

In thinking about the phrase “your attitude determines your altitude” one must first understand what altitude is. So let’s get technical, shall we? Altitude is a word commonly used in aviation. Altitude is the orientation of the plane relative to the ground; it literally determines how high the plane can fly. How does this apply to our lives? Replace altitude with success. It is our attitude, or the orientation of our feelings and behaviors that determines how high we can go in life. This thought reinforces the fact that we choose our attitudes. We may not have the ability to control the situations we find ourselves in or the reactions of others, but we do choose how we react to those situations and those individuals. Keeping a positive attitude and displaying a positive
attitude no matter the situation can have a direct impact on your experiences in life
as well as your elevation professionally.

This can be a very hard lesson to grasp because many times especially in student affairs we are placed in tough situations or have to interact with some less than civil individuals; however if you start training yourself to keep a positive attitude despite your surroundings, you will be surprised at how
 different your outlook on life can be.

“With the right attitude human beings can move mountains. With the wrong attitude they can be crushed by the smallest of grains.”

Friday, April 6, 2012

Your Intellectual Image

What is the first thing that comes to mind when you hear someone discuss "professional image?" For me, I instantaneously think about outward appearance. Specifically how I dress and how I carry myself. During the annual NASPA African American Women's Summit, I was introduced to a new concept of my image that I need to be conscious of; my intellectual image.

Oftentimes we are so distracted by how others perceive us based on our looks and actions that we might fail to examine the perceptions formed based on our speech, diction, and language. Our speech, diction, and language have direct impacts on the opportunities afforded to us and how intelligent, trustworthy, and credible we are perceived to be.

My challenge for myself as well as for you is to be conscious of our intellectual image and take ownership for it.

Here are some suggestions for how to move forward:

1. Be well versed in facts, statistics, trends, and current events within your field. As a Student Affairs professional I have made a vow to read the Chronicle of Higher Education, the Journal of Blacks in Higher Education, and other accessible news sources and journals to better understand the field in which I work.

2. Be well versed in your institutions jargon and the jargon used most often in your field. Do you know the "buzz words" at your institution? Do you have a clear understanding of what they mean and their history? Do you know the “buzz words” within Student Affairs? Can you speak about intentionality and civic engagement for example?

3. Analyze your speech and diction. Talk to individuals that are close to you and ask them to provide you with feedback on your speech. Are you clear and concise? Do you use words appropriately? Is your tone, dialect, and humor distracting?

4. Improve your vocabulary.

5. Become comfortable giving presentations and commanding a room.

6. Practice, Practice, Practice and know that change does not occur overnight. Improving your intellectual image will take time; however the investment will be worth it.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Dressing for Success: Are we selling ourselves short?

As Student Affairs Professionals are we Selling Ourselves Short?

Isaac Bashevis Singer “What a strange power there is in clothing.”

Today’s #sachat sparked so many thoughts in me that I had to take some time to put them in writing. For those of you who did not have the pleasure of participating in today’s #sachat, the topic was “Dressing For Success, is it a privilege?”

There were a number of topics that came up throughout the chat that I felt compelled to address in this blog post. So here are my thoughts in greater detail than 140 characters:

Are we selling ourselves and our students short?
Throughout the conversation I was shocked to find that so many of my peers do not feel that professional attire amongst Student Affairs Pros is necessary. As I reflected on this, I begin to feel disheartened. If we were in the corporate world, or working in any other sector I do not believe we would be questioning whether or not a suit, dress slacks, or ties are necessary. Due to the fact that we work with college students and on a campus of higher learning we are okay with wearing our Saturday casual clothing to the office. I challenge you to think about that and ask yourself as a professional are you selling yourself short?

As student affairs professionals we took the oath to serve as role models in every aspect of life. We understand that we live in a fishbowl. We direct our students to our Career Development Centers to learn about “proper professional attire” but we do not role model it. Are we setting our students up for failure if we project the image that jeans and t-shirts in the office are ok?

First Impressions COUNT!
I am not acknowledging that you should be judged by your outward appearance at all, but I do believe that your appearance has a great impact on the impression that you leave. I learned throughout graduate school that there are three areas of professional presence. These areas are “visual, verbal, and vocal”. The visual is obviously your outward appearance. The verbal is your diction. The vocal is your voice. Do you think these three things are equally judged? No, they are not. You can only imagine that the visual carries the strongest impact because it is the initial impact. We have all heard the quote “don’t judge a book by its cover” but how many of you would buy a book that has mustard stains all over the cover no matter how good it was. Not one!

I know that as Student Affairs professionals with countless clocked hours of diversity training we pride ourselves on not being judgmental, but that first visual message you provide carries a lot of weight whether you want to admit it or not. I, for one, would like for my first impression to matter. Remember “you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression”.

It’s Bigger Than You!
As I continued to read comments throughout the #sachat, I found that a lot of individuals were very focused on how they did not want to be judged on their appearance and how their appearance should not impact their work. I would like for you to understand that your appearance is bigger than you. You reflect an organization, an institution, and a campus community. When you think about your image as something that impacts more than just you, it should encourage you to want to step up your attire a little bit.

Your Appearance Affects Your Growth!
This is a topic area that has become near and dear to my heart as I am confident that my professional image has had a great impact on my professional success. I know that I would not have been afforded some of the opportunities that I have been had I not carried myself in the way that I do. As you continue to grow and mature in this field you have to be conscious of your appearance because sooner or later it may impact the opportunities you are given. Do you want to be hindered because of your attire?

Does this mean that you are not your authentic self? No.

But then again who is their “authentic self” at work? We all have to “shift” in some capacity when we come into the office or interact with certain individuals. I challenge you to think about your attire not as a way of conforming but as a way of being intentional. We are intentional in how we interact with students, the programs we plan, and the conversations we have. Why not be intentional with your image and the message you want to project?

I am not encouraging you to deny who you are, but in order to spark change; you have to be prepared to sit at the table. In order to sit at the table, you have to be invited. Would I invite you to my dinner party knowing you are going to arrive in flip flops? Probably not.

Finances, Classism, and the like!

Do I believe the term “Dressing for Success” is classist, exclusive, and/or discriminatory? No.

I do believe that the definition of the term is debatable and can be left up to interpretation. I am a firm believer in dressing for the culture/environment that you work in; however using the explanation that requiring individuals to dress professional is classist, exclusive, and causes stress is unjustified. As someone from a low-income environment, I have been building my professional wardrobe since my undergraduate days. There are many outlets to build a professional wardrobe on a strict budget. It does not require tons of money. Do a little research, purchase essential pieces, and get to mixing and matching.

 Final Thoughts!
As someone that is hopefully on a journey to become a University president someday, I am very conscious of my professional image/professional brand. Maybe this is just something that is engrained in my personality, but I have also been instilled the wisdom to know that my appearance has a great impact on my career.

“Think about which path to success is hardest. The first way is to make the necessary changes in you to project a professional image. The second way is to make no personal changes and devote your energies to convince everyone that you are a professional in spite of your unprofessional appearance.” ~Clancy

Sunday, January 1, 2012


My New Years Eve was a day of pure reflection for me. 2011 was a year of new problems, new pressures, new challenges, and new opportunities for me. My #oneword for 2011 was "Shine". Being a new professional, I made a conscious decision in 2011 that I wanted to make my self stand out from my peers, I wanted to find that special something inside of me that made me shine and I wanted to put it to action.

As I look back over last year, I can do nothing but smile because I feel I accomplished just that. I Shined in 2011...and now as I go into 2012 I know that there will be new problems, new pressures, new challenges, and new opportunities coming my way. 2012 is going to be a year of maturity, growth, and change for me.

I have thought long and hard about my #oneword2012 and for this year,
I have chosen the word "Embrace".

Why Embrace?

I know that 2012 is going to bring me a whirlwind of changes, decisions, opportunities, stressors, challenges, etc....however I want to embrace everything that is going to be thrown my way. A lot of times I have gone through my life always thinking about whats next and although that is not a bad thing, I want to conciously make the decision to embrace the present. So in 2012, I am making the conscious decision to embrace my life for all the craziness that it is going to be.