Choice

Content warning: mental health, depression, self-harm, suicide

 

What feels like an eternity ago I was a student at an undergraduate institution. It was, honestly, the best time of my life. My experiences, although not always great, defined who I am today. It took whatever I was when I graduated high school and molded me with a strong liberal arts background. The foundation of my supervision style was developed from the experiences that I had appointing vice presidents as student government president. I probably peaked in college and everything else is a downward spiral, but that is probably a conversation for a paid professional. However, I have been remembering bits and pieces from my college experience lately that I wanted to discuss with you, mysterious person who clicked the link.

I have been through ample training for my multiple positions throughout life, but I can clearly remember one particular training with a theme. The theme was the FISH! Philosophy and, at the time, I loved it. I thought it made so much sense because I obviously needed to “Choose [my] Attitude” and pick something more constructive than cynical and suspicious. If I made that choice then things would be better, right? I could choose to see the light, and everything would be fine, right? It took far too long for me to be able to see that this is not the case. Sometimes a person can make a choice, but that choice does not matter. When it comes to your mental health a person does not always have a choice.

One cannot choose to stop feeling hopeless. One cannot choose to stop wondering if it will get better. One cannot choose the lethargy they feel every moment of every day. One cannot choose their symptoms away. One cannot choose to get better just because they choose to. Mental health is one of the most difficult subjects to talk for many reasons, but the one thing that we, as a society, fail to grasp is that mental health is health. Sometimes we get sick. Sometimes we feel good some days and some days we do not. We cannot make a choice to feel better when we have the flu. We cannot make the pain disappear when we twist an ankle.

However, we can make a choice that impacts others. We can choose to notice the signs of depression. We can choose to ask those we care about if they are okay. We can ask if someone is considering harming themselves or ending their life. We can ask how we can help. We can offer a ride to the hospital or the first therapist session. There is a lot that we can choose to do, but it is up to you to make the right choice.

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5 Reasons: Careers in Student Affairs Month

October is Careers in Student Affairs Month and a month where I attended the Ohio College Personnel Association’s (OCPA) Careers in Student Affairs conference and decided that I was going to become a student affairs professional. That was over four years ago. A lot has happened within those four years that have shaped my career in this field. Recently, I have seen a lot of colleagues on Twitter discussing Careers in Student Affairs Month and they inspired me to write this post.

Careers in Student Affairs Month has a very heavy emphasis on recruitment of undergraduates into graduate programs for student affairs. OCPA’s conference was one such effort to give undergraduate students the opportunity to experience a conference setting where they could meet like-minded students, graduate students in programs, and other professionals who held an interest in recruiting “the next generation.” However, with the burnout rate in student affairs being quite large (40-50% within the first five years) and not enough positions for the number of recent graduates Twitter is filled with critiques about this month’s emphasis on recruitment. What about retention of current staff members? What is being done to promote a continued career in student affairs?

The subject of my post is not necessarily to discuss that. There are lots of great posts in #sachat and #sagrad on that exact subject. What I wanted to do was focus on a list: a list of reasons why not to go into student affairs.

Payment for Services Rendered

Student affairs positions are not always well compensated for the education required or for work outside 35-40 hours that goes uncompensated. If you check out this link you will see some average salaries for some careers (not specific student affairs). My context is primarily Residence Life where there is an emphasis to be visible at events, be visible in the halls, and be visible when students are around. This all translates to not working a traditional 9-5 (or 8-4:30) but these expectations are all in addition to being in the office during business hours. Having it both ways leads to burnout.

Years = Experience

There once was a time, in the functional area of Residence Life, where a professional would have a moderate chance of becoming an assistant director with three years of experience. That threshold has increased to 4-5 years of “progressive responsibility” for an assistant director job. If you recall earlier, I pointed out that the burnout rate is around 40-50% for persons within this same year category. Coincidence? Unlikely. Quantity of experience does not always yield a better professional.

Introverts Beware

I am an introvert. My blog post on training indicates that my experience with training was not built for introverts. Neither is the entire profession of student affairs. Extroverts are highly sought after and are usually the ones that are most heavily recruited because they are just so obviously good at people and that’s our job, right? That was sarcasm, in case it was not clear. Luckily for me, I have gained a lot of skills in increasing my capacity for other persons. Though, if you ask my coworkers it is still small.

Care & Concern is for Students Only

There is a lot of stigma with mental health in the world today, unfortunately. And although Student Affairs is moderately good at encouraging a general student to go to counseling we have a long way to go when it comes to ourselves and our peers. Overall, we may not be the best at taking care of ourselves, which is only exacerbated by the fact that we need to take so much care for ourselves to prevent stress overload every day that ends in “y.” In my relatively short career thus far I have encountered far too many situations where a senior level administrator asked if a person was qualified to do their job because of “insert mental health reason they elected to tell us about.” Where was the care and concern? Lost in liability concerns.

You are the Administration

One of the most important things that I struggled with when I became an administrator is that I no longer had student rights to voice my concerns about the administration. I am the administration. You are lumped into that category and all the responsibility (whether fair or unfair) that comes with it.

Final Thoughts

My intention is not to stop you from pursuing this career if you truly feel passionate about and the work that can be done. My only desire is to offer a view of the field without rose colored glasses. A career is an important and expensive decision and a person needs as much information as possible before deciding. If you have read this post and still feel strongly about entering the field – go for it. If you suddenly realize you want something else – go for it. It’s your life; you must live it.

Tried & True: Training

It is a little cliché to start off a blog post or any sort of writing with a dictionary definition . . .  So, I made sure to give you this little warning that I am about to do exactly that.

According to Merriam Webster the definition of the transitive verb train can mean several things such as “to teach so as to make fit, qualified, or proficient” or “to form by instruction, discipline, or drill.” Based on my educational background the second definition offered by Merriam Webster does not quite fit what I consider training to be; better put I do not believe that the latter is effective training. Once I started working I was put through so much training. Once I became a resident assistant I was introduced to the sheer agony that August brings so many student affairs professionals and paraprofessionals. Training is a season that my body expects. Just writing about it brings pain to my joints. That being said . . .  I sort of liked training. Note the past tense.

I really enjoyed training when I was a student staff member. I felt connected either as a learner or someone who could offer their experience to a younger member. I was and still am not a fan of teambuilders or anything involving the usage of limited social energy, but I was not miserable during these times. As I attended graduate school and began working as a part of my assistantships I was introduced to Safe Zone and Green Dot training. These were fantastic trainings and because of them I was able to work with a Dean of Students on the development of a hybrid training curriculum for Title IX and Safe Zone training at a small, private, Catholic, liberal arts institution. While building these curriculums I was taking a course on e-learning through my graduate school. I was learning the basics of how learning works and how to adapt these foundations and apply them with curriculum design. To this day, I feel it is one of my best accomplishments though could use some updates.

After I had taken Green Dot training I felt the need to learn about how to be trained as a trainer. I remember thinking “This is my thing. How do I find a job where all I do is training?” This feeling is no longer a part of my persona. I have become critical of training and its usefulness. Context is important, so I will indicate that I am residence life professional returning to a third year at the same institution. I am introverted. All my thoughts on training are ripe because I have been in training from July until last Wednesday. Below I am going to indicate several of the mistakes that I have seen, experiences, or noticed throughout my years of being trained.

Changing the fonts, but not the content

The number one critique that I have about annual training is that it is the same exact information that I received the first year, then the second year, and now again. My dislike of this practice may stem from a pet peeve that I have: I do not like to be told information that I already know. In many cases, my pet peeve is irrational because how is (insert third party) to know that I know the information? However, in the cases when the third party knows that I know because they have already trained me in the process there is little reason to make my presence a requirement.

There are laws and rules requiring persons to undergo the same training annually. It is a standard protocol for Title IX, alcohol, or consent trainings. However, this is not a practice that is generalizable to all trainings. There are no national trends indicating that students do not know how to file maintenance reports that the state or federal government has spent thousands of dollars to implement a mandatory training. Re-read the definition of training above: are you training or are you drilling information?

Suggestions:

  • Utilize curriculum design principles to build on the experiences a staff member receives, especially student staff members
  • Ask returning professional staff members what their professional interests are and arrange “training” meetings around these content areas for that specific staff member

Designed to Deplete

If you design a training that puts people together for over 10 hours a day you are inherently building an ineffective environment for introverts. I am an introvert and have a relatively small amount of social capital to exert. I am also in a leadership position meaning that the expectation is that I am always “present.” There is very little time to recharge. A training session after dinner? My ability to pay attention to details is gone and I am more likely to make a mistake. If your training schedules requires 10-12 hour days, you are not effectively training and are setting up your staff for failure and exhaustion come the academic year.

Suggestions:

  • Learn more about humans. Want to know more about how introverts function? Check out this link.
  • Cease repeating the cycle of exhaustion by building schedules that allow staff members to just be people

 Two Places at Once

As I write this blog post I have been in “training” for nearly two full months. The only days that I have to work in the office are Monday and Friday both of which are the most unproductive work days ever (Well, according to this source Friday is the least productive, but Mondays are terrible too).  While I am being “trained” there are dozens of tasks being left unattended to, several other administrators frustrated that I am not in my office, and preparations that need to be made. It is frustrating to be in a position when you are being training to do your job and your campus partners already feel that you are not doing your job because they cannot get ahold of you. Build a schedule where employees feel like they are doing and learning their job not learning how to do their job while not doing it.

Suggestions:

  • Ensure that you are giving effective time for persons to do work in their own offices (8:00-9:00 AM every day is time, not effective time).
  • You’re not training returning staff, you’re developing them. They are already trained to do work. Let them.

Final Thoughts

I could go on for several dozen more pages, including specifically nitpicking the trainings I have been through recently – but I think that these general comments with assorted suggestions offer a lot of content to consider. Ultimately, there is a need for training our employees and ourselves, but my observations of the status quo show that there is a need to do better. If we expect students to grow and do better in college it is more than reasonable that we can do the same over a career.

What suggestions do you have? What do you do to effectively train? Share in the comments.

Words as Themes: Where do I go from here?

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My Word

For the past two years our office has engaged in an activity in which we establish a “word” whose definition outlines a theme that we want for our professional and, in some cases, our personal lives. This activity is one of my favorites because it does not involve other persons. It is a thought exercise that forces me to look within myself and reflect not only on who I am, but who I want to be. These types of exercises are my favorite. Personally, I think these activities can build a stronger team than any human knot, hula hoop, or rope team building activity. This year, I want to showcase some of the thoughts that I have had over the past several weeks as I attempt to determine what my Word will be for this year. The future is meaningless without the past so how about a review?

2016-2017

Word: Heuristic

I chose this particular word because at the time it was representative of my supervision style. Also, it was a word I have had never encountered until I looked for it and looked cool. Throughout my liberal arts education I was taught too never accept the answer or solution given to me at face value. I was to analyze it and consider the meaning behind it and the consequences of accepting the action. In many cases I was presented with complex problems with no clear solution and forced to defend and critically analyze the solution I came to. This rigorous education created a supervisory style that asks for others to give me their answer.

Heuristic

Image that reads: Heuristic to me means that I am not always capable,and in some cases, am unwilling to give you the answers you seek. Why? Sometimes you need to find the answers on your own. Plan, try, fail, try again. Twitter symbol @ShaneYoung15 

 

2017-2018

Word: Logos

I chose this word in response to what I perceived to be an influx in emotion based decision-making in my professional life. It was not something that made sense to me and still confuses me to this day. This word was chosen to further define who I am as a professional. I am logical. I focus on facts and reason in my decision-making and make the decision that makes the most sense.

Logos

Cartoon image of the author with a half full progress bar titled “Thinking” and a thought bubble reading: Logos: Convince b use of logic or reason’ use of critical thinking to reach a conclusion or solution

2018-2019

Word: ???

I do not have a word yet. I am still trying to figure it out, but here are some thoughts.

Exodus: My current position considers itself a “three and up” curriculum where at the end of my time here I ought to have enough experience to move up the food chain (most assistant director positions are now requiring 4-5 years of experience, but that’s a whole different story). My time is ending and I must make my exit. My life is a series of exits, but how does one leave a place? Because my watch is ending do I have more hills to die on? How does one set up a supervisory area for the unknown next person? Should the theme of my final year be the fact that it is my final year? Perhaps even my final year in student affairs?

Reality: One of my major struggles with other persons within my own work is that we often have very different experiences and expectations of the same scenario. In many respects I think that leaders often have idealistic notions of reality that they espouse without the consideration of the actual state of things. I see the world through mild pessimism and severe realism. I think and speak with candor in order to make my bleak reality make a little more sense.

Conflict: Internal reflection brings a lot of conflict to the surface. As someone who is often lost in their own thoughts I am often internally conflicted about my place in the world and struggling to acknowledge and accept the changes that are occurring within my life. In addition, and you may have caught this impression from my last post, I believe that conflict is a part of life both professionally and personally. As I exit my time in my current role and react to a harsh reality there is bound to be conflict. I want to be prepared and I want to prepare others for this eventuality.

These are just a couple of possibilities. What are your thoughts? Do these fit? What other theme might represent me?

Sensible Suggestions: Politics in the Workplace

Image result for i hate politics meme

Above: An meme of rap artist Xzibit stating “Yo Dawg!  I heard you hate political memes so here’s a political meme about politic so you can comment on how you hate political memes”

I have recently began reviewing my notes from some of my former graduate courses and I came across a casually typed statement that inspired me. In my notes I wrote “we are an organization of people and that is political.” For context the “we” is referring to colleges and universities and their composite parts. I know why this statement struck me then and still does now. When talking to colleagues or graduate assistants I often hear them bemoan the fact that there are often political systems that exist in their work environments. “I hate drama! Why can’t we just do our jobs and help students?” is one phrase that I have heard on more than one occasion. The struggle of power and influence exists in every aspect of our lives. Although most will espouse a distaste for engaging in “politics” persons will always work to ensure what they perceive to be a desirable outcome. It bears repeating that we are political because we are an organization of people.

I hope that does not terrify you. As a student of political science, I am energized by the prospect of watching power and influence in action. I view being able to competently engage in this as pivotal to my profession. In this and future blog posts on this topic I hope to offer even a small amount of usable advice to help you avoid or respond to the situations that I have found myself in throughout my career.

Control the narrative

One of the keys to ensuring that you have an upper hand in disputes in the workplace is to ensure that you control the narrative. I am not referring to having reporters on your payroll, but if you can do that . . .  it may be worth it. What I am referring to is ensuring that you limit the situations in which your supervisor or someone above the chair receives information (or a complaint) that takes them by surprise. Worse yet is when that person asks you to respond and you have no information on the situation because you didn’t document it with as much detail as the other party. these situations occur in my professional life and the one thing that I have taken away is that I HATE being surprised by these things. Over time I have developed a series of protective behaviors which include:

  1. Verbally request what it said in writing at the time it is said
    1. If that request is not granted within 48 hours – request it via writing
  2. Write up a small summary of the interaction for your own notes
  3. Send an email summary of the conversation to the person you had the conversation with.
  4. Send your supervisor an update including the information that was agreed on as a rudimentary update
    1. You can CC the individual you had a conversation for extra security

How many of you are wondering if this is really necessary? I bet that some of you may haven even thought “Wow, this is petty.’” I challenge your disbelief and your dismissal of these actions because these guidelines are responses to actual incidents in my professional life. I have been involved in disputes with students, parents, supervisees, Deans of Students, and other professionals who have years of experience on me. I have lost out on hundreds of dollars because I didn’t have written documentation of an agreement between myself and an employer.  I will not let this happen again.

Please note that these guidelines do not immediately absolve a professional from all their disputes against other political actors. For instance, I have had supervisors confront me asking about a situation that was reported to them (usually by their own supervisor). It is a relief to indicate that they received a status update via email on xx-xx-xxxx date. I prefer this to panicking and attempting to remember that you stopped by their office two weeks ago sometime after lunch while wearing purple and any other clues to help jog their memory as well as your own.

That’s all folks… for now!

After some thought (and due to time crunches) I think I am going to start this as a series of posts with chunks of information rather than a large one with all the information. I will probably collect some better examples if I write sporadically as well! Thanks for stopping by and reading about controlling the narrative. Check back sometime in the future for more sensible solutions to politics in the workplace!

Considering “Why”

July is a time of preparation and training. Training new professionals in new work environments and taking [bitter] returning professionals along for the ride. Preparations for student staff to arrive back on campus for training and/or for help in preparing for month of August and everything that it requires. There is so much going on and so little time, it seems. Where did the end of May and all of June go? Oh, yeah, I took a two-week vacation. Having a significant amount of work to do and preparations to make and trainings to sit through has not prevented my mind from wandering and it has been pondering what could be considered an important question. Why am I in student affairs and who am I as a professional?

A part of this has stemmed from recent professional staff training where entire blocks of the training schedule are dedicated to team builders, socials, or training sessions where less than 5% of the information is new. As a residence life staff are notorious for being the positive, ice breakers every second there is a pause, and wanting to work with people because they’re so extroverted type. That, in my experience, has been true over 70% of the time. Alas, I am not. I am a realist. Icebreakers are abominations. After two bouts of small-talk I need a nap. I’ve been thinking. Is this for me?

I have already considered whether I am jumping to conclusions based on what is a minute amount of annoyances, but I have over two years of professional experience within the same job and no matter how many supervisors I have had (4-5) and staff’s I have supervised (3rd completely different one starting soon) my perspective on these activities or on my style have not altered very much. Why did I want to be a student affairs professional? Do I still have that same drive now? As I was contemplating this I texted a dear friend asking a simple question: Do you think I make a good student affairs professional? Earmuffs, kids, but she said “Absolfuckinglootly no doubt!!”

When further pressed, she expanded her statement to “I think you are because you have drive to make student and staff experiences different. You try and make a clear path for systems and structures. You are a strong mentor and leader. Your supervision skills have developed providing purpose and guidance. Through your work without full acknowledgement of students you make a large impact on their navigation through the system.” Thanks Edna Murrieta!

 

Existential crisis avert . . . let’s be honest; it was only delayed.

A Year in Brief Review

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Wins and Losses of 2017-2018

Wins

  • I met and worked with some phenomenal graduate assistants whom, although had no idea what they were getting themselves into, have given me one of the best years of supervision I have ever had.
  • I was chosen to lead the student staff recruitment and selection committee. At the beginning I was given a lot of freedom to build a process that resembled what I might have wanted as an applicant.
  • At the end of the year during an abruptly planned appreciation event the week before finals I was forced to realize that members of my staff actually liked me. Throughout the year I had deluded myself that my staff either hated me or had no thoughts about me, but the kind things they said and wrote to me as well as the conversations during final one on ones helped me see I did something. I had an impact. Still unclear if it is a good one.
  • I have managed to add Desire 2 Learn and Jotform to my repertoire of technology that I know how to use based off integrating them into my job’s processes. It was one victory this year in my endeavor to make things simple and efficient.
  • I am able to write this post, meaning I may have more time to blog in the future! Or not. We will see.

Losses

  • Volunteered (under duress, I assure you) to move from a supervision area where I was happy, had the small campus feel, and was going to be filled with staff members I had selected to another side of campus with none of those factors (well, the happiness came later re: see wins).
  • Once the process I built became internal and there were no more candidates to interview it became riddled with political battlefields.
  • I still refuse to come to terms with one of my greatest weaknesses and continue to fight it without assistance.
  • Holistically, I have been unable to steer as much positive change as I would have liked. There is still so much that can be better but for each one there is three barriers, whether a person or a mindset.

 

This is just a snippet of the year. Not everything has made it and there may be major things that I have overlooked or forgotten. This is just what is running through my mind recently as well as the desire to post on this website I bought. After all, letting my money go to waste is not Sensibly Shane.

Conference Contemplations [GLACUHO]

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Conference

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
-Compromise
-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.

La la la! Let’s talk about music

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Overwatch character Lucio DJing on a hologram

 

This week I wanted to chat with you all about music as it is one of the things that I cannot work/live without. I always have Spotify playing some obscure new artists or random German industrial (just ask my staff – they think it’s weird). Music is important to me as it has been one of the things that helped me throughout my life. The right song has the potential to make my day better or motivate me to take on new challenges. I wanted to take a little bit of time to chat about music.

Music is capable of many medical feats; Collingwood (2016) concisely lists that music has contributed to the relief of depression in elderly persons, reduce the likelihood of burnout in nursing students, and general reduction of stress and proliferation of positive sensations. If music can influence your health can it also help in other areas? According to research conducted by Teresa Lesiuk the answer is yes. Lesiuk’s (2005) study noted that the mood and quality of work was lowest with the group that did not have music. It may come as a surprise, but the group in Lesiuk’s (2005) study that had access to no music also spent the most time on task; they worked more and achieved a poorer result.

Not all music is created equal though. Music with lyrics can, in some cases, produce less productivity (Shih, Huang, & Chiang, 2012). According to an old instructor listening to music without lyrics could motivate the brain, but those with lyrics would prove more distracting due to the brain automatically focusing on recognizing and understanding the words. I partially believe this logic… although I currently listening to vocal trance music to write this post. Sorry professor!

What does this all mean? 

Why did I bother writing this post, especially since there is no music attached to it? Well, I want there to be people who read this post and then go and build a “tomorrow’s my deadline playlist” (for future projects, of course). While you are writing that end of semester report, know that it is okay to use the below playlist of epic music to increase your productivity. Playing music in your office is not unprofessional or unwelcoming. In my own many cases, it has helped students realized there was a person in the mysteriously ajar office. In one case, several students and I jammed to an artist I had just discovered.

Music is inextricably tied to ever changing concepts such as work environment or professionalism. There are work environments that have not updated their expectations for a changing world that is more critical of why they must adapt to companies instead of companies adapting to the talent they have recruited. Too often organizations tacitly or actively believe that persons must adapt to the organizational standards rather. You must dress this way, you must act this way, you must never appear to be unprofessional by the standards in this 59-page document you signed that showed that you read the rules and regulations. The enforcement of policies is not consistent and in some cases, presents itself on discriminatory lines.

What does this all mean? It means that I support altering work environments. I support those who can wear jeans and still retain the powers of doing their job. I support music because the evidence shows that it works to make not just employees, but people, better.

To Employers

I have been a part of work environments that actively discourage music, singing, and demand you only work on those tasks to which you are assigned. They were soul-crushingly boring and my work suffered because I was unable to focus on such a tedious task for too long. I would arrive at 8:00 and leave by 5:00 only to feel miserable about my day. Eventually I began to become less and less engaged with my work and more engaged with doing homework, writing papers, and other academic work instead of the task at hand.

I do not want to be that person again. I do not want to waste my time as a professional or the time of my organization and for me to do this I need work environments to change with the times. I am not suggesting every organization mimic Google or other multi-billion dollar companies. It can be as simple as allowing Pandora, Spotify, or other music streaming to be installed on office computers. Are you truly dedicated to retaining your employees as well as maximizing their potential? Take an extra step and offer premium accounts because the worst possibility is that an ad for your competitor plays.

Take a chance. Listen to the anti-procrastination playlist I was introduced to a long time ago by a friend.

Anti-Procrastination Playlist: https://8tracks.com/kimtsan/the-ultimate-anti-procrastination-mix

Works Cited

Collingwood, J. (2016). The Power of Music To Reduce Stress. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 23, 2017, from https://psychcentral.com/lib/the-power-of-music-to-reduce-stress/

Lesiuk, T. (2005). The effect of music listening on work performance. Psychology of Music, 33(2), 173-191. Retrieved on October 23, 2017, from http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/0305735605050650

Shih, Y., Huang, R., & Chiang, H. (2012). Background music: Effects on attention performance. Work, 42(4), 573-578. doi:10.3233/WOR-2012-1410

Shane is back… back again.

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Greetings world!  I am back and at least 47% more motivated than before! A lot has changed over the past several months and I want to provide some updates for you.

Work Related Updates

I am working in a different part of campus this year due to some staffing issues. At first, I was absolutely dreading the change because it was change. It turns out that I may harbor positive feelings towards it. I supervise three graduate assistants as opposed to my two from last year and I must say that I am impressed with the work that they have completed and I am looking forward to what they can do in the future. I have said more nice things about them to them than I have given positive feedback in at least 1,200 years.

Life Related Updates

As a part of my “terms of surrender” for moving to another area of campus I negotiated for a much larger and more comfy couch. It has increased my happiness significantly as my previous couch was seriously suspect. I have recently been going to the gym a lot more because I found a partner that constantly bugs me about it enough to force me to go. The worst part? I sort of like it. I listen to audio books to make the grind bearable and so far, it has worked.

Where do I go from here? 

Well, I sort of want to watch the musical episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer but that is not important right now. What do I want to do? I want to tell stories about the things I am doing, have done, or plan to do. I want to find more technology to share with the world. I want to brighten your day with my sarcasm or just a fun story about that one time I thought a student was calling me “Fatman.” I want to tell you about why I like chai tea lattes and not americanos. Let’s be honest – I don’t have a plan, but I planned to not have a plan so I get to be my INTP/INTJ self regardless!