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I recently had the pleasure of attending my first GLACUHO (Great Lakes Association of College and University Housing Officers) annual conference. I attended with seven other representatives from Southern Illinois University Carbondale over the course of three days, two of them filled with awesome presentations. As I have not been to a conference in a little while, my readers may have forgotten that I offer small summaries of information I gained at conferences through my blog series titled “Conference Contemplations.” We have been in hiatus for a little while because conferences are expensive. Feel free to skip around and read what interests you almost like a small online conference.

Job Searching: Should I Stay or Should I Go Now?
Presenters: Kristen Brewer & Aaron Copley-Spivey
This session started a little bit late due to a business meeting that ran over, but it meant that the content was made more concise. We started out the session with a series of prompts that forced the audience to reflect. My notes were a little bit jumbled and written in a lost form of scribbles so please bear with my translations. The prompts were directed at our current position and included the following:

-What are 3 frustrations you have with your current position?
-What are 5 enjoyments you have with your current position?
-Is your current environment negative or abusive?
-Have you attempted every action to make your position workable?
-Do you have more to give in this position or at this institution?
-Strategize your 5-10 year plan; where do you want to be?

Working with Wiki: Maximizing Information Sharing and Collaboration in Housing and Residence Life
Presenter(s): Eric Musselman
I have an entire section of my website dedicated to technology. I must attend anything relating to technology at any conference. This session was ultimately about trust because Wiki is just a tool that the presenter has used at their institution to collaborate with each member of their team and across the board. Wiki allows everyone to see and have access to all of the things that is happening in the department, which makes it very easy for a team to work together on a document, task, or project without being constrained to ownership and sharing difficulties that OneDrive or Google Drive can produce. Yes, there is a feature that makes it so that information that is not yet announced or contains information that should not be shared can be accessed only by certain users, but Wiki puts transparency on the forefront of thought and makes departments confront whether they to be or seem transparent.

Specific ways Wiki has been used include:
-curating large projects such as move in year to year for updates
-Emergency or department procedures, when they were last updated, and who is responsible for updating them
-facilities information such as furniture and room dimensions, colors, and ordering information
-Embedded forms
-meeting agendas and one-on-one tracking viewable only be those two persons
-task delegation and tracking

There is a lot more available as well, but I have a lot of other great content to write about too!

Creating Your Professional Brand
Presenter(s): Tiffany Gonzales & Justin Schuch
I operate this website and have a lot of work to do so I felt this was also a mandatory session for me. This session came with a handout (I love handouts)! The handout demonstrates most of the content of this session so let me tell you a little about what is on there.

One of the most important things in building a brand, however, is you. Who are you and what do you represent? What do you value? Do you have goals? How does your brand align with them? Where are your strengths? Areas of improvement? In order to create a brand one must know thyself!

“Create Your Brand Card” A nifty acronym to help you build a brand.
-Consistency: Create a coherent brand voice and tone in all verbal an visual communication across media platforms.
-Authenticity: Emphasize a true attribute.
-Relevance: Base the branding on an insight into you and your potential clients.
-Differentiation: Create a unique visual and verbal presence.

Ditch the Draft: Creating Student Centered Selection Processes
Presenter(s): Shandee Ewert & Marci Walton

This was the session I was most looking forward to attending as I am the chair of our recruitment and selection committee this for this year. I left the session with a lot of notes and ideas based on the points the presenters made, but also the comments from those in the audience. I am looking forward to attempting to implement some of this information into our ongoing selection process. One common item between the processes at the presenters’ institution is that there is one for new hires and one for returning staff. My current institution only recently began to use a process to determine if staff were going to be offered a contract for the next academic year.

The presenters talked about group discernment as a method for decision making. In group discernment there are 5 tenets:
-Ready to move
-Open to Sharing
-Quest for Union
-Collective Decision Making
Fairly simply to understand these five pillars combine in order to promote the best decision for the entire whole rather than the individual interests or interests of those we represent (i.e. specific buildings/areas).

If you aren’t going to score it then don’t ask for it.

This is the one statement that stood out to me throughout the presentation. Often times we collect applications an ask for information that is ultimately never used and this is disrespectful to the time and effort student applicants put into the process. If you have questions in your application, how do you score them? What does this score me? In addition to scores for the rubric, both presenters utilize a bias reduction training for their student staff, who often assist in conducting the many interviews for new staff. There was a lot said during this session and I am hopeful to have the opportunity to use even a fraction of it.

Can we Protest: How your right to demonstrate intersects with your expectation as a professional
Presenter(s): Alison Sinadinos
Political activism has been a part of my life since the early 2010s. I recall being in Washington D.C.  during the Occupy movement and talking with several of the protesters who had set up homes in the area. Furthermore, since entering the profession there have been many movements, especially by students protesting white nationalists, police brutality, and even an institution. This session is important because we are political persons interested in exercising our freedom of speech, but may pause due to employment concerns.

The presenter convened a panel of professionals to discuss this matter, but a large portion of the discussion focused on student staff members rather than ourselves as professionals. In many cases (and at many institutions) the right of a student staff member to exercise their free speech was supported. There were occasional limitations, such as ensuring that a person did not flaunt or use their position within Housing when engaging in protests. There was some discussion, using a case at Miami University of Ohio where a departmental policy did not allow graduate students to engage in protests. After some legal conversations it was clarified that graduate students did have the right to engage in protests.

I Want to Be In the Room Where It Happens: Building Political Capital as a Young Professional
Presenter(s): Stacy Oliver-Sikorsky & Rexann Wharton
I was really looking forward to this session due to my training as a political scientist at Hiram College. This session included what I think is really important information for graduate students and entry level professionals regarding transitions (#schlossberg). Students and graduate students are often able to sit on committees, boards, and given seats at the table that are exclusively for them. They are recruited and in some cases groomed to be on these committees and given the opportunity to influence decisions. Entry level professionals (and in some cases  graduate assistants) must demonstrate that they are really good at their job before they will be given these same opportunities. It can take years.

Some methods of gaining capital:
-Excel at your job
-Don’t expect extra in your first year
-Learn how opportunities are awarded
-Ask for supervisory assistance/permission before signing up for additional work
-Build external relationships

Rumor Has It: Myths and More from the Mid-Level
Presenter(s): Shandee Ewert & Marci Walton
Myths of the Mid-Level include:

  • You will have more time
    • Entry level after hours work is more visible than mid-level
  • Significantly More Decision Making Power
    • Politics are more intense
    • You spend more time preparing your boss to make decisions
  • More Disposable Income
    • Live-on may have more take-home cash at end of day
    • Consider rent, utilities, internet, groceries/meals
  • You no Longer need Professional Development
    • Relationship building is new pro devo
    • No one tells you when you need to learn
  • Supervision will be Easier
    • Varying levels of buy in/experience in supervisees
    • Longer duration of relationship
  • You will receive extensive training
    • Nope, nope, nope
    • Practice on providing options to supervisees
      • There was an earlier mid-level roundtable that came up with the phrase “solution based bitching” for additional reference
  • You will have colleagues in similar positions to you
    • Not everyone levels like you, so don’t burn bridges
  • Your Contributions will be Visible and Recognized
    • You will be the villain more often
    • You are the gatekeeper and often have to say no
  • You no Longer Understand Student Needs
    • You now have a larger perspective to account for
    • Build trust; help them learn that there are things they do not know
  • Good Entry-Level = Good Mid-Level
    • Necessary skills to develop are administrative skills, campus politic navigation, supervision, relationship building, and facilitation/articulation of your ideas/vision

Professional disAbility: A round table on working/ living in Reslife with health issues & disabilities
Presenter(s): Michelle Cecil
I joined this roundtable as an advocate and it was one of my most candid sessions of GLACUHO. The attendees demonstrated vulnerability and talked about their experiences thus far. One of the first important takeaways of this session is the exhaustion they feel when they not only need to muster the courage to disclose but to educate about their health issue or disability simultaneously. This conversation does not just occur with the professionals’ supervisor though. It sometimes occurs with student supervisees as well.

Privacy also emerged as an important concern because a persons basic instinct has not necessarily been to preserve others persons privacy. When student staff or even supervisors ask why a person is gone all the time or “are you really that sick?” It can become frustrating for those who need to utilize that time. Student affairs is not a field that has shown it is able to let those with time off be off, but this can prove more inconvenient and inappropriate for those living with health issues and disabilities. One of the last items we discussed that is tied to using time off is the potential need for medical specialists. An appointment with a specialist needs to be made two to three months in advance and requires insurance. If a professional has to relocate to another staff, there is  chance they will not have insurance until they arrive on campus. What if it is a person’s dream job but the nearest specialist is two hours away? The #sasearch becomes more complicated and becomes a matter of a persons health.