Tuesday, December 4, 2007

The 80/20 Rule in Student Affairs


There was once a time when interviewing scared the crap out of me. Now it's just a matter of speaking my truths and not really trying to impress but just being your impressive self. Don't get me wrong, a phone interview is still an awkward time no matter how seasoned you might be but the campus interview is the clincher!

I'm closing in on my seventh year in the field of student affairs. I still love programming. It's a natural high for me. I thrive on seeing students have a great time. In this seventh year I am getting "the itch" and new job opportunities are my Marilyn Monroe. If you don't get that reference, then you're probably much younger than I and don't know old Hollywood.

I liken what I'm experiencing to adultery - you know... having a job I enjoy (80% of the time) and seeking out something that looks more appealing to fulfill my needs. If you didn't get the "Seven Year Itch" reference, maybe this more current reference will work. In the movie, "Tyler Perry's Why Did I Get Married?" they talk about the 80/20 rule. It's really common sense.

When you are in a relationship or marriage, your significant other can realistically only give you 80% of what you need in a relationship.

There will still be 20% of what you need that your significant other will not be able to provide you, and naturally you will desire that missing 20%. This is why many people tend to veer off and cheat, and sometimes even leave their partner.

Once they've found that 20%, it's refreshing, new and exciting. "Eureka! I've found what I've been missing.", they think in so many words. However, many people forget that the other person is only providing 20% of what they need, and they are missing out on the 80% that they had with their significant other or that that person can only truly provide 60% of what they need - which puts them in a worse situation than they were in.

Now, apply that to your current career situation. Is your current position fulfilling 80% of what you need? Ask yourself some of these questions.

Do you feel invested in your institution's goals?
Do you enjoy the work you do?
Do you enjoy the company of people in your department? Your division? Your students?
When you pull yourself out of bed, do you wake up and look forward to going to the office?
Do you feel as though you're making a difference?
Is your voice being heard?
Are you respected?
Have you grown in your position?
Have you been able to evolve your job duties?
Do you like the city you live in? Does it offer you all the options you've wanted?

There's no right or wrong answers. By saying "Yes" to 7 of the questions doesn't mean you're at 70%. You might also find that there are many more questions that you need to ask yourself.

Now I'm at a crossroads of the 80/20 path. Some days I feel like I have all that I need and sometimes I want to have an affair. Having gone on two on-campus interviews - I guess I'm having the affairs even if it's just flirting. redface

Taking this analogy even further - Ha Ha! - I'm trying to save my "marriage" and work on our (professional) relationship by re-evaluating my responsibilities. I want to be sure that I don't continue this "marriage" and become bitter in the end and resenting someone or some place. Sometimes you can freshen up the "marriage" and sometimes it's best to split amicably.

Only time will tell.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Taking Risks


The Jedi has returned from his adventure on Endor. HA! Well.. that's what Colorado reminded me of in comparison to Las Vegas and I was ready to tackle new territory with my light saber in hand!

Given the fact that I had only gotten 4 hours of sleep and did 6 hours of talking, eating, shaking hands and trying to remember names, I think I did pretty well. The way the interviews were handled are VERY much in-line with my own style. It was just basically having a conversation with some direction. No stress about theories or mission statements, etc. You know, the things that might be asked during an on-campus interview but never really revisit once the person is hired. This was the most relaxed interview I have ever had and that was refreshing. I have to add that everyone was cool as ice!

In my experience as a seasoned student afffairs professional, I've learned that an interview isn't a contest you're trying to win to feel valued because you've been selected as the person they'd like to hire. It's about finding that fit. It's not about prepping your responses so much as it is to just being yourself. Don't get me wrong.. you can prepare for the "What do you know about our school?" type of questions - but after that.. all the answers are already in your head. No one knows you and what you do better than yourself. To link it back to being a "Jedi" - I really used The Force on Thursday. The Force being the faith in yourself; a strong level of confidence to get me through the day of sleep deprivation.

With regard to the notorious student panel interview - I had roughly 10 students around me, sitting at a table, asking great questions. I think those were probably some of the toughest questions to answer. They hit me with scenarios of issues that obviously happened in some sense or another and from what I saw, some took extensive notes. Yikes!

I left the day feeling as though I gave them a good snapshot of what I have to offer and also learned how I might be effective as a colleague at their institution. When asked about the challenges I see entering this position - I'd have to say the challenge is just "getting over yourself", taking risks and adapting to grow as a human being.

Now I sit and eagerly await the final word. Do they think I'm a good fit? I've contemplated whether I am a good fit for them since I got on the plane to return home. I can't say that there was anything that was a glaring "OOoh don't come here" moment. I also thought about my quality of life - personal and professional. How will I adapt? Would the change be good? Would I make loads of friends? Then I started thinking about life in general and something I said in the interview. In two instances I talked about encouraging students to take risks. I also mentioned how many of them took a risk at our recent retreat. We all attempted skills on the high ropes course. This experience is similar to taking the risk of moving to a new state and starting over. If offered an opportunity to work there I will need to accept the risk of the unknown and challenge myself. If I'm not offered the position I can rest on the philosophy that "everything ain't for everybody and everyone ain't for every place".

I have another on-campus interview coming up even further across the country.

I'm ready to grow.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Use the Force, D!


Recently I wrote about my light saber. Wax on. Wax off. Saber on. Saber off. No, I'm not getting trigger happy with it, just more comfortable wielding it in times of need - or so it seems.

In my previous Star Wars, geeky, themed blog entry I talked about the need to be able to to use your skills as a "Jedi". Once I was a young Jedi and now I'm a trained Jedi who failed to use the Force. What is the Force? Well, it's a level of spiritualness in the true Jedi world. In the student-affairsy world, it's confidence. My belief in the Force, my Force, was tested in the interview I spoke about. In less than 15 minutes did I really give them a good understanding of who I am and the type of work I do? I had a lot of doubt.

Fast forward 3 days. I get a phone call from the institution. In the conversation they were telling me that I am a finalist for their position and wanted to know if I were interested in coming in for an on-campus interview. Wow! I didn't suck! My repeating statements on professional growth may have meant something - and yes, if you're a wise Jedi, you sensed that I still lack a little confidence.

I am actually moving forward to an on-campus interview. I am super excited at all of the possibilities. A chance to teach a class; to advise a different group of students; to do more university wide programming. I'll be able to add more strengths to my light saber and my abilities to utilize this magnificent tool while believing in myself (a.k.a. My Force). It's self-actualization.

The saga of this Jedi is not over!

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Why Do We Do This to Ourselves?

I sit here writing this blog as I finish off the remainder of my newly discovered treat--Sharon's Fat Free Sorbet. Just when I thought I couldn't write anymore (I've been working on a literature review for most of the day), I got the sudden urge to start typing away again on a blog that I've been meaning to finish for quite some time now.

I received the invitation (I'm making this sound much more formal than it really was) several weeks ago to be a guest blogger for The Real World of Maslow. When I got the invite, I thought "What on earth do I have to say relating to student affairs that other people might want to read?" During a routine Yahoo! Messenger chat with my friend Dennis (the blog owner), it hit me!

I've been working in student affairs for roughly five years now. In this profession, we are often outwardly focused and will go extremely far out of our way to meet the needs of our students. But when do we stop to meet the needs of ourselves? I must say that student affairs is probably one of the most unhealthy professions I've ever known. It can be unhealthy mentally, financially, emotionally, spiritually and most of all PHYSICALLY!

Have you ever been at a student affairs conference and noticed the number of overweight, thick, plus-sized, juicy, obese, portly, pleasantly plump...call it what you want...fat people you see? And yes, I can drop the f-bomb because I'm one of those people. Yes, I know that the average woman these days is a size 14, which conventially has been deemed a "plus size." I've also been aware of the disprorportionate amount of overweight people in the field, but it truly hit me in the spring of 2006 when I attended a professional conference. There was a session on whether or not size matters and incorporated a discussion on how size is a new -ism. This session got me thinking about how I was a fat statistic in the field. More importantly, this new revelation made me question the impact our profession has on a healthy lifestyle.

One thing that I wholeheartedly love about student affairs is that it is a profession that espouses acceptance for individual identities. What happens though when your size has become central to who you are? I grapple with this. As someone who has been overweight her entire life, it's hard for me to imagine any other identity. This complication can make moving toward a healthier lifestyle even more difficult when you're striving for something you know nothing about. Nonetheless, I told myself that I was going to make a change. I was going to take the necessary steps to learn how to live a healthier lifestyle. So, I joined Weight Watchers in March 2006.

I was so gung ho about Weight Watchers! I knew I was on a roll after my first three weeks, after dropping roughly 17lbs. I was in the ZONE! But all of a sudden I had all of those road blocks come my way--student receptions, late nights, starbucks coffees to stay energized, lunch dates I couldn't get out of, pizza parties, etc. All of these obstacles were occurring because of work...student affairs work. I became more of aware of my environment at work. Stop and think for a second...
  • How many late nights have you worked that resulted in not getting a decent amount of sleep to function properly?

  • How many pizzas have you ordered for work related purposes? Now how much of that pizza have you consumed?

  • How often do you take time during the work day to meet your needs and your needs only?

  • How many times have you run to the local grease pit on your campus or visited a fast food place in your student union?

  • How many times have you thought... "When on earth am I going to have time for a vacation?"

  • How many times have you said "Well the students need (fill in the blank)..." and not stopped to think about your needs?

  • How many times have you said, "Well when the students go on break (summer, fall, a long weekend, etc.), I'll get it (whatever it represents for you) together"?

...and my final question is Why do we do this to ourselves? A willingness to help others is an essential characteristic for someone in student affairs. But it's time that we stop and take care of ourselves first. I return to my original statement of student affairs contributing to an unhealthy lifestyle.

For me, the most unhealthy part of my lifestyle revolved around diet and exercise. For others, the unhealthy part(s) of their lives may revolve around something else. In the past I had used my students as an excuse for not moving toward a healthier lifestyle. I was one of those people who said that they were going to get it together when the students were gone. This is student affairs folks! Students are never really gone per se.

In good old Schlossberg fashion, I made a major transition...This summer, I quit my full-time job to return to graduate school to obtain a PhD. I decided that, yes, while I work with students in my graduate assistantship, I wouldn't let them consume me. The next four years will be about me and my academic, spiritual, professional and physical pursuits. I didn't just try to adopt a healthier lifestyle this summer, I committed to it. Yes, student affairs may not create the healthiest of environments, but I came to the realization that I was blaming my profession for my physical state. I needed to shift my perspective.

What will it take for you, I ask. For me, it took embracing the I in priority. Becoming a student again has lended itself to a much more flexible schedule where I am in more control of calling the shots as to how I spend my time. Even though that is the case now, I probably have even less "free time" than I did as a full-time professional. In no way has this commencement of a overall healthier lifestyle been dependent upon students being on a break or anyone else for that matter. It's truly about me and my commitment, and not about being "selfish" with my time as we often say in student affairs. How can I be selfish with something that's already mine to begin with?

I'll close this reflection with a question that I was introduced to four years ago while listening to a homily at mass. I ended up at this church in Cincinnati in a spontaneous way, but now that I look back on the situation, I realize that I was meant to be there in that specific church for a reason. The topic of the homily was "Are You the Person You Want to Be?" My initial thought was no. I thought about this question on my drive back to school after that weekend. I knew I wasn't the person I wanted to be, even though I couldn't exactly put my finger on who my ideal me was.

I revisited this question this summer during my transition. This time, however, I feel confident in knowing who I want to be. I won't digress and go into a discussion of who I want to be, since it could be an entire blog on its own. However, I will say that there is comfort in knowing who it is you want to be. More importantly, realizing that I have ultimate control over being who it is I strive to be is immensely empowering.

Four months and 40lbs. later, I think that I'm well on my way to becoming the new me. I thank my friend Dennis for inviting me to share some words on his professional blog. Taking time to share these thoughts is quite motivating and is rejuvinating for me along this journey toward a new me. Whether or not you can directly relate to my story is not of the greatest importance. I just hope that you too will be inspired to reflect upon and write about life's moments and their relevance to who you are personally and professionally. Reflection is kind of like milk...it does a body (and a mind) good!

Peace & Blessings

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Interviewing & Me: The Return of the Jedi

Lightsaber:
Main Entry: light sa·ber
Pronunciation:
ˈlīt sā-bər
Function: noun

(1) A tool that can be enabled with lightning speed and holds the power of your skills, experiences, vision, career goals, personal goals, etc.

(2) A reflection of confidence, dexterity, and attunement to the (work) Force.


Yesterday I officially re-entered the land of phone interviews. How awkward! It's been 5 years since I've had to do a phone interview but I've been on the other side of the phone connection many times giving them. Since I've been at this institution I've done at least 60 phone interviews for candidates. So why did I find it so hard to be on the other side of the line?

I guess no matter how many times you've done a phone interview, the first one is always the most nerve racking. I can't recall any position that I've applied for where they were the first phone interview and I got a campus visit. Yesterday may continue that track record.

My interview yesterday was brief. Super brief. So brief that I'm not even really sure what to make of it. The interview lasted about 15 minutes - that included my questions at the end. I prepared the night before with a slew of potential questions. Tough questions. Questions that my current institution asks of its candidates. I wanted to be prepared so that my answers would flow smoothly like butter on a hot pan. I even consulted my Obi Wan Kenobi's (other professionals) for tips and reassurance! That didn't quite happen. My nerves got the best of me I think. I probably said "professional growth" a dozen times. Does that make me sound less like a Jedi? It is one of the key elements that I'm looking for in my next position. However, to be the interviewer, do you want to hear someone repeat key words? According to Yoda, “Happens to every guy sometimes this does”. I guess I've become more accustomed to much more in-depth interviews. I can honestly say that I don't think they got a good picture of who I am as a professional and didn't get a good idea of my Jedi tricks. Not in 12 minutes. Then again, maybe that's all they needed.

The brevity of this interview has caused me to question how effective I am in spitting out what I want in my next position and what my goals and skills/talents are. Sure, we could probably articulate to anyone who asks what it is we want to achieve in our careers. The question is, "Can you articulate what you want in your career on the spot with clarity and brevity while trying to be impressive?" I know I usually don't hit that clarity and brevity mark until the 2nd or 3rd interview. Impressive? I definitely love to talk about the work I do - but to do it briefly? By the time the lightsaber is on, glowing bright and I have more finesse when flippin' the switch on and off, the interview is over.

The lessons for this Jedi are these: Always have your lightsaber ready. Know what you are capable of and the power of the lightsaber. Practice, practice, practice.

"Try not. Do or do not, there is no try." -- Yoda

*I was inspired to write this blog by watching Director Kevin Smith guest star on Degrassi The Next Generation last night. He mentioned Star Wars - which is one of my favorite movie series.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Are You Having Fun Yet?

It's late and I hate to inform you of the hour in which I'm writing this blog. Just know that's I can barely keep my eyes open.

I was using a cool new online gadget called "Stumble Upon" tonight. I usually start clicking on the buttons when I get a little bored. Next thing you know, a couple of hours have flown by. Stumble Upon helps you stumble onto web sites that suit your tastes. My tastes include music, art and graphic design, self-improvement, and aaahh, yes... coffee!

Today I stumbled upon "Eight Irresistible Principles of Fun" and was instantly drawn in by the classical music that accompanied the graphics. The message was clear. Are you having fun?? You can relate that to all aspects of life. I think I'm even more sensitive to that question because I saw the movie "Why Did I Get Married?" tonight. It makes you wonder if the people who seem to be having all of the fun are truly having all of the fun.

The video lasts about 8 minutes - don't complain about not having enough time to watch it either! There's ALWAYS time - the problem is that you don't always want to make time. If anything, the music will put you at ease and provide a few minutes of solace. biggrin

It's a good lesson in learning why you enjoy doing the work that you do. If you don't.. then I have to be like Dr. Phil and ask, "How's that workin' for ya?" Probably not so hot. Self-reflection is a good thing.

What a great way to start off your morning!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The last lecture of Randy Pausch 1

10 Minute Lecture




Full Length Lecture (which is MUCH better to watch)
The first 7 minutes or so are introductions, etc.



Today I was watching Oprah. Yeah.. She's one of my favs! On her show were people who were living with a disease that is killing them. Randy Pausch was one of her guest.

Randy has pancreatic cancer and has been told that he has only a few months before he will begin to deteriorate and eventually die. In his final lecture (which is something done at Carnegie Mellon University every year) he talks about maintaining your childhood dreams and achieving those dreams. It moved me.

There were several things that stood out in my mind from his lecture. One thing was that his parents never curtailed his creativity. He wanted to paint the walls in his room with pictures, ideas, etc, and his parents allow him to. So did my parents. That made me consider how lucky I was to have parents who allowed me to be "me". They may not have always been happy with all aspects of me but the undoubtedly respected me, my creativity and choices as a human being.

Randy (his lecture is THAT good that it makes me feel that we're so close that we're on a first name basis) has a knack for painting a vivid image of the simplicities of life.

It's a testament to living life through your own dreams and never giving up on those dreams. What a great lesson for us as student affairs professionals to learn/revisit and what an EXCELLENT lesson to teach our students.

Take a look at the clip. Share it. Talk about it. Ponder the concepts.

Imagine what life would be like if we truly focused on what really matters in life then what really matters to us.

Right now I'm workin' on a pretty good "head fake" :0) - you have to watch the video to get it.

This clip is only a snippet of his hour lecture. I am working to find a way to post the entire lecture on this site.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Don't Cry For Me....

I have to set the tone for this blog by providing a soundtrack. I choose the Evita soundtrack. YES - the one featuring Antonio Banderas and Madonna. Like Evita, I have my moments, I have my style, I have my missteps and it causes me to self-reflect.

During the last two days I forgot to a extend professional courtesy - but I sure as hell would have expected it from my peers if I were on the other side of the fence. I received an email from a superior that really put me in check. It was almost like a mother scolding her son when he doesn't use his manners. At least that's what it felt like. I needed that.

In order to become a better professional we need to be made aware of our mistakes. It doesn't always necessarily need to come in a touchy feely approach - sometimes we as professionals, don't "hear that". Sometimes we need a good stern stare and a finger shaking to set us back on track. The email I received was full of a stern stare and finger shaking! A few years back, I had a Director be stern about my tardiness to a meeting. To this day - I am NEVER late to a meeting unless it's due to my resolving an issue that requires immediate attention.

These are those professional development moments that come out of necessity. Those learning moments that puts you back on track and settle into your brain.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Take Action Today: Your Part in Helping the Environment

Today is Blog Action Day. I don't know how many people know this - I actually just learned about it about a week ago and it hit home. Blog action day is the day where over 12,000 bloggers have come together and blog about the same topic - The Environment.

I'm 32 years old and I'm plan to do my part to preserve the planet for future generations. It sounds pretty intense, I know. I've been concerned about the environment since I was about 15 years-old. I would do little things like starting a compost pile in my parent's backyard or recycle, reuse, and replenish things as best I could. As I got older, the only thing I can really remember intentionally not using was styrofoam. Somehow the effort waned throughout my college years and even up until this past year.

Working in student affairs we use A LOT of paper, plastic and other disposable things. It's crazy to think about how much waste we produce. On my journey to Oregon State University for a student leadership conference they have a "Green Campaign". I thought about their efforts. Wow, they encourage people to take the stairs instead of the elevator. They REALLY ENCOURAGE recycling on their campus and if you don't recycle you get a funny look from people. I started feeling guilty about taking the elevator or not recycling or using paper unnecessarily. It's a good kind of guilty (if there is such a thing). I mean, think about it - what you do today affects tomorrow. You probably think (or sincerely hope) to be a living, breathing person 20, 30, 40, 50 - plus years from now. What are you doing to ensure that this planet is capable of providing us with all its resources that keep us healthy?

I know that as educators we strive to teach students what words are inappropriate, to have compassion for others, to get involved in community service and organizations and to be instruments for social change. However, I couldn't tell you the last time I've heard a student affairs professional say, "Hey, be sure to recycle that!", "Let's buy _______ so that we can use it again." , or "How can we do our part to be environmentally friendly and less wasteful?" We're often quick to pull someone to the side and educating them for saying that something is "Gay" or "Retarded", or counsel them through the repercussions of their actions. We are in the business of improving each other and ourselves to be better human beings so let's make sustainability another concern.

Today I want to challenge you, your department, your institution, etc to "Go Green" and educate all those around you on steps they can take to improve their wasteful behavior. We can take baby steps. I know I'm just an infant in my efforts but hopefully each year I'll grow.

The first step I've taken is to recycle in my office. My office houses the RA, RHA, NRHH, Complex Council resource room. We recycle all of the paper that is unused - and sadly, it's quite a bit but at least it's not ending up in a trash heap. This past Friday I took another step - recycling plastic and I'm encouraging my students to do the same. The next goal is the individual offices and then our department. Eventually I hope to reach the rest of the campus with the help of others.

The following video is the trailer for an upcoming movie/documentary called "The 11th Hour"

video

Here are some tips on how you can get started in your office.


  1. See what your institution does for recycling. If there's nothing in place challenge them to do something. This is the perfect time for you to CHALLENGE AND find SUPPORT. If your institution doesn't already offer the service, look for an independent recycling firm that can come and pick up your office recyclables on a weekly or biweekly basis. If this isn’t an option in your area, work with individuals in your office to encourage people to take their recyclables home with them to put in their own residential curbside recycling.
  2. Send email memos instead of paper.
  3. When you send email attachments to staff members to read before the next meeting - indicate that you will bring copies with you to the meeting so they will not print unnecessarily and save a branch or two!
  4. If your institution has a newsletter - ask if it's possible to offer the newsletter in electronic form. Those who care to have a paper version can then print the document.
  5. Conserve paper. Challenge staffs to refrain from printing documents until they've proofed it several times. This will prevent printing unnecessary copies until you have a final draft. If you do have papers that are printed on one side, flip it over and use it again as note paper, to-do lists, or use it to print on the other side - fax machines are another great option! You can also use "previously used paper" for any number of things. It can be shredded and used as cushioning for shipping boxes. Switch your paper supply to 100% reccycled. Don't forget to make photocopies on BOTH SIDES of the paper. Lastly, consider receiving bills and statements electronically. Sometimes, a cell phone bill can be a good 10 pages long - what a waste!
  6. Have a box or other receptacle in your office to recycle paper, plastic and aluminum.
  7. Express to your students and colleagues how important recycling is to you and why you do it. It's an educational moment. Eventually someone will begin to follow your lead.
  8. If you're a programmer, think of ways to get the word out without printing a large number of posters. We all know that many students don't always get their information from posters anyway. Try publicizing on Facebook, MySpace or on a university listserv. If there isn't one, consider making one.
  9. Consider taking the stairs if you're able-bodied. It's good for you and saves electrical energy. Encourage others who are with you to take the stairs too. Sometimes all they need is a boost of "you can do it".
  10. Consider using reusable plates, cups, utensils, etc in your office. It takes a little more effort (like 3 minutes) to wash them but you're not creating more waste! Consider taking your own mug to the coffee shop and having them pour your drink into it.
  11. Don't offer an endless supply of bottlesd water. Ask students and staffs to bring reusable water bottles such as a "Nalgene" and have a common source of water. Consider purchasing the 5 gallon bottles for retreats and other office functions. Oh and tap water isn't horrible - we've just gotten spoiled. Besides, tap water is WAY cheap!
  12. Don't take a bag if you truly don't need one. If you do take a bag, try reusing it for something else - trash bags, storage, padding for shipping boxes. Also think about buying a reusable sack for groceries and whatever else you purchase. Trader Joe's, Ikea, Albertson's and Von's have all begun offering these bags.
  13. Switch your lights to compact florescent bulbs. They last MUCH longer and use far less energy. While the initial investment may cost more than conventional bulbs, CFLs last longer-- so over time your office will save money and save energy.
  14. Hold an in-service or training activity that allows participants brainstorm ways they can do their part to preserve our planet.
  15. Offer incentives to encourage people to take public transportation, walk, bike, or car pool.
For additional tips on how you can take action, visit these sites:

Ideal Bite - Great tips for the everyday, busy person!

Green Shopping Tips - How you can affect change at the market!

Earth 911 - The nations premier environmental resource

Find out how much carbon you're producing. Carbon emissions contribute to our climate change and you can do your part to slow the change. Carbon Calculator

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Oprah-isms Revisited

WOW... I was thinkin' about the blog I posted last night and came across an article I wrote for our Division of Student Life Newsletter. It's crazy how easily we can get immersed into "other things" and forget the stance we decided to TRY to take. It's kind of like a New Year's Resolution. You have great intentions of holding to that resolution but it slowly slips away. Then you forget whatever it was that you resolved to do - unless it's weight loss and the only reason you remember that is because of repetition. I mean, how many of us have made the weight loss resolution??

At any rate, I thought I'd share what I was feeling like nearly 2 years ago. Clearly it's starting to be an annual reminder of where I need to be and probably a good lesson for all to read.

I will say that I am again enrolled in classes for personal enjoyment after taking a year off because I couldn't possibly find time for personal pleasures outside of work. The classes have allowed me to make another attempt at living my best life. Go Me!

Thanks for reading...

Oprah-isms: A reflection on personal development

Around this time last year, I wrote an article titled, “The New Chaos and Calamity”. The article discussed aspects of leaving your 20’s and moving into the life of a thirty-something professional. I ended the article by answering the question, “Do you feel you’re where you want to be in life?” with, “I’m exactly where I want to be.”

As I reflect on my previous writing and having turned 31 recently, I wondered if I truly was where I wanted to be. The more I think about it, the more I realize that I am or in the very least, headed in the right direction. I realized that Oprah was on to something many years ago.

In my personal life, I committed to my #1 Oprah-ism, "Remembering My Spirit". Oprah’s use of this phrase on her television show helped thousands of people. I remembered my own spirit by reconnecting with my passion for creativity. My career took the driver’s seat the first 8 months of 2005 but the last 1/3 of the year was committed to self-expression. I have never felt so accomplished! I had always talked about writing a book and I did by writing a 50,000-plus word manuscript and entering the National Novel Writers Month Competition. To add to writing, I always wanted a sewing machine and learn to sew. My first projects were throw pillows which I gave away as gifts. I will tackle shirts this spring – so look for high fashion from the House of Hicks soon. Lastly, I rediscovered my love for photography. I have been dabbling with photography since 1990 and began taking courses at the Community College of Southern Nevada during the beginning of 2005. With that commitment, I had the idea of creating my own website to show off my work. I had contemplated doing the website for a while. I was always afraid that I wouldn't have enough money to run it, or that my work wasn't good enough. On December 23, 2005, I made the commitment and began the process of creating my own website.

So where did all the fortitude come from? I'm not sure exactly. Maybe it was born from a need/desire to be creative and expressive. Perhaps it was the need for some personal accomplishments. Or it could be the result of something I never had control over to begin with. Whatever the case may be, I feel as though my life is being fulfilled and the use of Oprah-ism #2 is being realized: "Live Your Best Life" and I encourage you to do the same. Find that spark, the drive, the determination to reconnect with what gives you personal fulfillment.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The Battle of the Golden Handcuffs and Mucky Muck

What a glorious day it is when I wake up with the stresses of my life causing me to grind my teeth - LITERALLY! Lately I've realized that I have plenty on my plate o' things to do and can't seem to slow down. I'm sure many of you have had semesters like that. Where you can't ever seem to slow down because of all the expectations that seem to rest on your reputation as a producer of quality work. I say reputation because that's exactly what I'm trying to keep up with a to not disappoint or piss off someone. What makes this time especially stressful is attempting a job search.

I entered this position 4 1/2 years ago and I've now come to conclude that I'm an overachiever. I want to do all for these students that I can within the powers of my magic wand. With the flick of the wrist, I give myself the energy of 5 men to complete program after program at a break-neck pace. In the early years (it's really not that long ago - I swear) I did everything because people asked me. When people realize you are skilled in an area you become the "go-to-person" and they start spreading your name around campus. Next thing you know, you're on twelve committees, 5 sub-committees, 2 planning groups, and having lunch meetings because you don't have enough time to schedule another meeting outside of eating a proper lunch.

I started thinking about how I found my way to this lifestyle. I think our Merit Process has a lot to do with it. If you're not familiar with that process - here's the short and quick of it. You do things outside of your job description that adds to the overall success of the university and you show that you've gone above and beyond the call of duty in regard to your job description. This means taking on committee work, being committee chair, becoming published, community service, being elected to national and regional offices, doing presentations at conferences, etc. The more you do while juggling your own job earns a merit increase. It can be quite nice and a key motivator for many a things... The extra money is lovely but lovely at what expense?

This morning as I ground my teeth and stretched as I had my cup of coffee before my short commute. I happened to look at my bookshelf and saw a book I had bought a while back but OBVIOUSLY hadn't read yet. "Don't Sweat the Small Stuff at Work" by Richard Carlson, Ph.D. I opened this book and it automatically landed on the Don't Be Trapped by Golden Handcuffs tip. How ironic I thought. I have definitely placed a set of golden handcuffs on myself. With each merit increase I spent more. A bigger apartment. A new car. A new computer. A trip out of town. Racking up credit debt and a lifestyle that requires me to make as much money as I am. Basically expecting to live a life to match the income that I THOUGHT made me look more successful to others. How STUPID! As I read this section I thought about how I could unlock those handcuffs. I hate shackles.

Do I really need a three bedroom apartment to share with a roommate? Do I really need 300 channels to surf on the cable box? Did I truly need that Wii video game console? How about that Tivo? What about high-speed internet? Well.. wait.. I do LOVE my internet... so that's a yes, I do need it.

I say all of this to say Notorious B.I.G. had it right - "Mo' Money, Mo' Problems". That' s not to say that those golden handcuffs are tight but they are making me a tad uncomfortable. My need to satisfy my physiological needs are in jeopardy. I need to quote Oprah here - It's time to Remember My Spirit! It's time to downsize.

The Golden Handcuffs can trap you into believing that you have to make "X" amount of money to live. In reality I lived perfectly fine before the merit increases. In fact, I even lived alone and paid all my utilities, had a modest cable channel assortment and (of course) high speed internet. However, nearly a year ago I felt as though I didn't have enough money even after a $3000 raise! How R-I-D-I-C-U-L-O-U-S!

I say all of this to raise the question - is making more money in turn, making you more happy? Is your quality of life where you'd like it? Are you finding yourself in the same financial debacle as you were when you made less money? Are your essential needs being met? That lack of a sense of belonging seeming to belittle you? Is your esteem beginning to lull? Is your current job not fulfilling your career goals yet you stay for the pay? Are you self-actualizing your hopes, dreams and goals?

As I begin this job search - I'm beginning to realize what's important this time around. I want a better quality of life - mentally, physically, and socially. I want to be able to do my job well, have a life at home, and be able to indulge in my hobbies. I'm determined to find that. If I have to make concessions to my current lifestyle I'm okay with that - since when did acquiring "things" by any financial means necessary become a necessity and a low quality of life become consequential?

In the last few months I read an article about why people enjoy their jobs. In the article, it wasn't so much that they enjoyed what they did for a living - it was more to the fact that their needs for a high quality of life were met. People who are happy at work and have longevity love the city they live in, have a strong base of friends, and the ability to enjoy activities outside of work. It also mentioned that a healthy dose of challenging work and a sense of accomplishment also factors in there. Now - that's not to say if you're unhappy in one area of your life you need to pack it up and go - it's just a thought about what helps you to have the quality of life you desire. That leads us into values - and that's a WHOLE other blog because I'm an INTJ on the MBTI - and I will surely have an opinion on that! Yep.. I do enjoy those personality inventories for PERSONAL UNDERSTANDING from time to time. If you've read a previous blog of mine... you know what I'm getting at - HA HA!

So enough with all of the mucky muck! This wonder boy is on his way to self-actualize a new way of thinking about work, life, health and his pursuit of happiness.

Holla back y'all!

(and yes, I stole that mucky muck/wonder boy stuff from Tenacious D! - OMG.. a new nickname for me! biggrin)

Monday, October 1, 2007

Self-Efficacy 101

This past week I witnessed something phenomenal. It was the culmination of weeks of planning. What I speak of is the Inaugural Students of Color Leadership Symposium and I served as a committee member.

My charge on the committee was to put out the call for programs and to put out the student registration Survey Monkey links. Sounds simple enough, right? I soon found myself totally vested in this, what would soon appear to be, a much needed program. I would send out emails weekly asking for program proposals and registrations. Each day (even while home) I'd check to see if our numbers were up. If they were, I'd set a new mini-goal. I'd find myself saying, "We have to hit "X Number" before the end of the week."

Through my efforts I met new people across campus that I would have never met. Colleagues of color that I never knew existed. How exciting is that? By the time the symposium took place, we found that we had 22 program proposals submitted and 92 students registered! That was even MORE exciting - considering it was an all day event on a FRIDAY!

There were sessions covering topics for different ethnicities as well as general programs that focused on becoming a better student or understanding that dynamics of their organization. One particular session that I attended was on Mestizo culture. First I thought, wow, this program might not be anything I'm truly interested in but it could be interesting. I mean, I do love learning about different things, cultures, ways of doing things.

As I sat through the session I listened to the presenter talk about his topic - Mestizos. I thought it was pretty interesting that he would quote Cater G. Woodson, not once but twice! I thought it odd that he would quote a black man and not someone who's Mestizo, Chicano, Hispanic... Instead, he chose to quote Woodson as he began his presentation.

“If you can control a man’s thinking, you don’t have to worry about his actions. If you can determine what a man thinks you do not have worry about what he will do. If you can make a man believe that he is inferior, you don’t have to compel him to seek an inferior status, he will do so without being told and if you can make a man believe that he is justly an outcast, you don’t have to order him to the back door, he will go to the back door on his own and if there is no back door, the very nature of the man will demand that you build one.” - Carter G. Woodson

The first thing I thought was, "Do these people in the room even know who Carter G. Woodson is?" Now I'm thinking, "Does the reader of this blog know who Carter G. Woodson is?" He is so instrumental in black history - So much so that he is FOUNDER of Black History Month. It also happens to be that I lived in the city where he once lived - Huntington, West Virginia...

The presenter asked the room what they thought Woodson meant by his quote. He asked everyone to consider the basics of the quote and reiterated, "If you can make a man believe that he is inferior, you don’t have to compel him to seek an inferior status... " It instantly made me think of where I grew up. You never had to tell any of the black kids that they didn't belong in Dearborn Heights after dark - that was just clearly understood. Other things that were understood was that blacks and whites could live in Inkster but blacks should never try to live in Dearborn Heights. My GOD - this was the 80s and I'm sure there are PLENTY of places like this in America to this day! Jena, Louisiana anyone?

The conversations went on in the session and we talked about ethnic pride and sense of self and how that helps individuals succeed in life. I spoke about how I always was given a self of self and pride because the schools I attended had a higher than average number of black teachers and principals and I must note, a black superintendent. I'm sure this dictated what type of programs we had in our school. We were celebrating Dr. Martin Luther King's birthday WELL before it was a national holiday. When it become a holiday I distinctly remember an entire half-day assembly in junior high were we celebrated and played the Stevie Wonder song, "Happy Birthday" over and over. If you didn't know, that song was written especially for Dr. King and not to give us black folks a soulful way to sing "Happy Birthday" on those auspicious occasions.

As I spoke about my childhood experience, I actually felt "black privilege". I experienced something that a group of people never felt in their school. A sense of comfort knowing that there were teachers that looked like me, talked like me, went to churches similar to me, and were successful (in my eyes) like I wanted to be. I never felt "on edge" walking around the school or that I couldn't do or say anything in particular.

For whatever reason, the yearly email that I receive each year of Black Inventions made me curious. I asked the students in the room if they ever recalled getting an email or seeing a list or read a book that even talked about inventions by people of Mexican descent. Everyone in the room either identified as black or Mexican. They said, "Well I know that the color TV was invented by a Mexican." and then she just stopped the list there. WOW! Number one, I didn't know that. Number two, You can't name anything else? Now I'm thinking, how sad is it that we HAVE to name off the race/ethnicity of a person to say, "Hey, a Mexican invented this." or "Did you know a black man made that?" Whoa is me... I told her that I could name at least a half dozen things off the top of my head that a black person invented and how it amazes me that she can't. Again, I felt a sense of privilege because I had been provided such information to make me aware of the contributions of blacks to America and the world.

The session concluded and I was still befuddled. What do I make of this? What should I make of this if anything? Where is the self-efficacy?

At the conclusion of the symposium I got up and spoke in front of the 20 or so students who actually stayed until the very end. I wanted to share with them how moving the session on Mestizo culture was and how I was shocked to learn what I learned. I told them that there HAS to be more inventions that Mexicans have made and given to society and that I was determined to find and share them with our students. I was so worked up that I began to shake and have a look of determination and lifted my voice to say, "I will be your ally!" I went on to say that as soon as I got back to a computer, my advocacy would begin. Thus far, I did a search on Google and found a few. TOP 10 MEXICAN INVENTORS - one such invention was the creation/finding of the active ingredient in birth control pills! This task wasn't as easy as finding black inventions. There is clearly a large inventory that someone started and continues to along to our "extended black families".

Self-efficacy can only happen when someone wants there to be a change. Don't demand a back door - demand a front door. Hell, demand your own house and kick out (or graciously invite) others out of your home! Demand more knowledge. Demand more education. Demand that you are NOT the stereotype. Demand that you are NOT the voice of your ethnic group or race. Demand that your self-worth is more valuable than what clothes you wear. Demand that there be change. Be the change you wish to see in the world (Ghandi) and start with now! Believe in yourself.

A sense of pride can't just happen overnight. It occurs over time. Through life lessons and book lessons. Through discussion and knowing heritage and history. Through sharing thoughts, ideas, and those lessons. I know that's where my pride comes from and I want to pay it forward by being a role model for anyone I come in contact with.

I want to add to this list of Latin/Hispanic Inventions. So please send me any new ones to add to the list. Post your findings in my comments, please!

Self-Efficacy

More Mexican Inventions

Some Black Inventions

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

A Little Fresh Soil and a New Pot...

What a mixed up feeling it is. "I'm on a ride and I wanna get off. But they won't slow down the roundabout," to quote Duran Duran's "Reflex" - is exactly how I feel right now. Many of us have been there. The infamous job search. Some people love the thrill of the unexpected with searches. I don't really enjoy it myself. I enjoy exploring life and what it has to offer but as I inch closer to my mid-thirties, I am beginning to enjoy career development in a single place. Am I a rare breed? Having only worked at 2 institutions in 7 years is pretty good. I know others that tend to "bounce" after only one year on the job. Granted, that was me when I was an art teacher in rural North Carolina. However, the difference with me is that I left that career after one year of full-time teaching and entered the world of student affairs. The aforementioned individuals that I know that left after one year all, with the exception of one, stayed in the field.

This has been on my mind because I am now in my 5th year at a single university and haven't changed positions. I've pretty much been doing the same thing each year - with the exception of several programs that I'm not required to do but do them because I think they're needed. For example, World AIDS Day Events. These would probably never happen if I didn't do them.

In my 5th year I was hoping for something to be different. It's not.

Today I went to the Post Office and noticed the workers. I started thinking, "Wow, Charlotte and Amy have been doing the same job for who knows how many years - they've been behind that same desk since I've been in Las Vegas!" Then I thought about my parents. My mom worked as a postal worker for 30 years. My dad worked in the Ford Motor Company factory for 30 years. How were these individuals able to do it? How were they able to continue to stay in the same job, same location, until retirement? We're definitely talking about an older, baby boomer, blue collar mentality. I know who thing that kept them there is having a family that you can't just uproot and transplant to a new area with ease. Not on their salaries at least.

In student affairs, professionals are known to be transient. I've seen one acquaintance of mine hold three jobs in three distinct areas of the country all within the 3 year span I've known him. Whatever happened to longevity? I've also noticed one other acquaintance from my years in college who has held the same position since she graduated from the Student Affairs program. She's a rarity!

Currently I'm at a crossroads. I love parts of my job dearly. The interactions with the students. My RHA and NRHH students. My emerging student leaders that I find each year. The events we plan and to hear students 6 months to a year later still talking about them. Then there's the, "God, not THIS again... " stuff. I know there's that type of thing at EVERY campus - so that's not really an issue. My issue is needing to feel challenged, supported and that my work and myself as a human being is valued.

During my tenure at UNLV I have probably only been challenged by my colleagues and supervisor during the first year and a half. I've grown tremendously as a professional - when I reflect on what I was like fresh out of graduate school and two years into my professional career. Since being at UNLV, I've been able to present myself with new challenges each year. With each program, presentation, workshop, training, retreat, etc. I challenged myself to make it better. If you're familiar with Strengths Quest - my top 5 are Adaptability, Maximizer, Connectedness, Input and Developer. I enjoy making things bigger and better each chance I get and I love to feel connected to and making connections with people. I can get along with anyone and find common ground where a relationship can flourish and my mind is always constructing something new.

When I consider job searching I feel torn. There are so many things I love about where I work but unfortunately there is nowhere for me to go as far as growth is concerned in this current role. Do I continue to just work as I have been and maintain the longevity or do I seek out new challenges at another institution? Or do I hope for a new position to magically appear and let the current job opportunities I'm seeing pass me by? I feel like I'm a plant whose roots have outgrown the pot and I need re-potting with some fresh soil.

The professional growth I'm seeking is out there. I just don't know where it's hiding and which pot will suit my taste or where the richest soil might be to feed my future growth.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

On the New Seaon of...

I guess it's because I've gotten swept up in the drama that ensues on my newly purchased DVDs of season two of Dynasty. I love a good drama! I love Alexis Carrington! I have season one also and it's not nearly as thrilling as season two - I think anyone who enjoyed this 80's evening soap knows this. What those same people would know is that the drama is always the same - just presented differently in each episode and that's precisely the world of student affairs.

Love it or leave it - our careers in student affairs is dramatic. It's not unusual to hear "She said..." , "He said...", "I can't believe he...", "Did you know..." on campus - from other professionals no less. HA!

I've just started the season of meetings on our campus. I'm in my 5th season of this series. Complex Council, Residence Hall Association, National Residence Hall Honorary, Dining Commons Committee, Committee for the Committee of Forming a Committee, and the "let's meet tomorrow to discuss what was discussed in today's meeting" meetings. It can all be so dramatic and seem so important.

If you've worked with student groups you know how a dramatic turn of events can happen and throw people into a tizzy. This week on As the RHA Turns, I witnessed a dialogue exchange that will undoubtedly morph into a battle between "Krystal" and "Alexis". As the advisor, I'm challenged with managing/directing each episode and I thought, "How do I manage these two personalities and make sure the good of the team is intact?" I mean, we DO have a lot more episodes to do! My first thought was to sit back and watch because as I said earlier.. I LOVE a good drama. Then there's the seasoned student affairs professional in me that says, "You better get a grip on these two!"

Working with students who are trying to figure out who they are, what it really means to be mature, and how to become more professional without compromising their authenticity is tiring! But it's a labor of love.

Each semester presents 16 new episodes. They laugh; they cry; they argue; they threaten to walk out on you; they vow to never talk to someone unless they have to; they plan; they plan to watch things fail; they plan to succeed; they vanish only to return just in time when their help is no longer needed; they work until their help is no longer needed. Our students can, at times, be all these things and more and it's our dedication to them that encourages them to be the stars of the show. It's our job to bring out the talent and natural gifts in our students and help them shine.

So, on with the show and may each of us who advise student organizations strive to be the Aaron Spellings of our campus. Dramatic close-ups, paused stares into the cameras and all!

Monday, August 27, 2007

Do They Realize How Important They Are?

Last night I held an on campus event for Target. It went fairly well and you'll catch it on the Jimmy Kimmel Live show. I'll post the airdate once I find out - but back to this blog.

At our event I saw quite a few of our black students and it made me think of a blog I wrote back in May 2007. The blog was in reference to the show, Iconoclasts on the Sundance channel. This particular episode featured Dave Chappelle and Maya Angelou and there was a point where Maya really hit home with me. She was speaking about black men and how sometimes they forget their importance in society with regard to what most of our ancestors had survived. It was pretty deep.

At the event I got to thinkin' how students really have no concept of it. How they are here because of the pain and struggles of those who came before us. That they have this GRAND opportunity to attend pretty much ANY university they choose to apply themselves to the work it takes to get accepted. It also made me think of the type of student I was in high school and how I just barely got by. I guess it's still fresh in my mind because I watched Roots: The Next Generations last month. After having seen people go through so much, why would any black student want to NOT succeed or be successful? I don't think they don't want to be successful, but I do think that the perception of what successful is is vastly different than the traditional views of what a successful adult is. Is it money, power, material things?

Since school has now begun for most campuses, I thought I'd share the blog that keeps Dr. Maya Angelou's question, "Do you know how important you are?" fresh in my mind. Maybe it will inspire you in the same way it has me and enable you to inspire others.

_________________________________________
May 22, 2007


If you've kept up with my postings, you'd know that I'm in a "writing mood" lately. It's a creative outlet for me and when i take the time to write something, I REALLY put in some effort.

Today I was watching a show I had Tivo'ed called "Iconoclasts". It's a show that comes on the Sundance Channel. I had heard about this show from a friend and it just so happens that I came across the show one day. I didn't have time to sit and enjoy it so I set up the Tivo to capture the episode. This particular episode featured Dave Chapelle and Dr. Maya Angelou. These are two people that I admire in different ways and i was deeply interested in how this meeting of two well known, black celebrities would work out.

As I was watching the episode, it just began to move me. Dave Chapelle is my age and he's talking to Maya Angelou who reminded me of my maternal grandmother - extremely wise and full of love. I was thinking of how much love Dave Chapelle must be feeling because I was feeling it just from watching the screen.

Maya Angelou talked about her life and the people she knew and had met. Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Jr., James Baldwin, among others. It's just amazing to hear of the life she was made to live.

In the episode she talked about how she could tell when a young adult was raised properly - by how they respect their elders. She also commented that while you should respect your elders, you don't necessarily need to agree with them. That reminded me of my own upbringing. It also reminded me of a story i was told the other day in which as a teen ager, this person would have fist fights with her mother. Something is clearly wrong with that picture. I also thought about how I treat senior citizens and how I give them respect. My parents made sure to instill this in me.

Maya Angelou was speaking with Dave and told him a story. In this story she said two things that resonated with me. 1 - "Don't pick it up and don't lay it down." and 2 - "Do you know how important you are?".

I'll tackle the easiest to explain first. I was confused when she said the statement, "Don't pick it up and don't lay it down." What in the world is that supposed to mean? I was confused. Then she explained. If someone says, "You're great!", "Your work is fabulous!", "You do everything fantastically!" you should consider accepting the compliment because if you "pick it up" you're also going to have to "pick up" the criticisms. If you choose to "pick up" the accolades you can't just "lay down" the criticisms. That struck a chord with me and my career and my art. If I accept all of the positive discussion about what I do I need to also accept the negative. If I'm not ready to accept criticism I should just graciously and humbly accept the compliment and move on without relishing in the thought that someone thought I was "great", "good", "awesome", etc.

The second thing Maya Angelou said is, "Do you know how important you are?" As a black American... this is EXTREMELY important.

Maya Angelou was telling Dave Chapelle how she had to have a conversation with a young black man who was angry at another black man and using foul language (she does a MUCH better explanation of this than i do). She asked him "Has anyone told you how important you are?" Again, my ears perked up and i listened intently and rewound it to hear it again. "Has anyone told you how important you are?" Wow - that is SO profound. So profound that I had to pause Tivo and grab my sketch book. I wrote down what she said word for word. Maya said, "Do you know our people slept - laid spoon fashioned, in the filthy ashes of slave ships in their own and each others excrement and urine and menstrual flow so that you could live 200 years later? Do you know that our people stood on auction blocks so that you could live? When is the last time someone told you how important you are?"

Think about that. Think about HOW profound that paragraph is. The very thought of understanding where most black Americans originated from. How they arrived to America. Think about the pain and agony our ancestors must have gone through. Think about the journey on those slave ships - the trauma of being captured and shackled. The pain of being whipped and abused. Raped and robbed. To have survived all of that so that WE can be here. This is what makes being a black American important. We carry on the struggle for what our ancestors lived through. We are the result of their successes in staying alive. We are a result of their fighting for freedom; for civil rights; for equal rights.

To be a black American and not "get that" is not understanding our history in this country. It makes me realize how thankful I am. How grateful I am to have been given the life I have and a sense of urgency in making my life have meaning and importance because I know how "important I am".

After the episode, I also got to thinkin' about why certain words and actions are unacceptable in black American society. For instance - dressing in black face - totally unacceptable just because of the history behind it all. Shirley Q. Liquor is a white man dressing in brown makeup and over-the-top clothing, representing himself as a poor, uneducated, single parent of MANY kids. It's like we stepped back into time. This is NOT the days of the menstel show! Then to have another person argue that it's no different than Eddie Murphy dressing up as a Jewish man in Coming to America - they MUST be smokin' somethin'. I don't recall a black man dressin' in white face makin' fun of June Cleaver.

Then there's the whole use of the word Nigger and any other version of the word (nigga, nicca, et al). Let me clarify something. I don't use the word UNLESS I'm trying to educate - so at this moment it will be used freely. I've heard people say, "Well how come blacks can say it and I can't?" Well, think about it... if you still don't get it, you probably shouldn't even consider using it. I don't even like to hear black people say it. It's a term used to hurt us and our using it doesn't give us the power it ONLY gives the power to the people who are CURRENTLY in power. As long as you continue to say the word, the more they'll continue to believe that's all you are. You might say "Nicca" or "Nigga" but the rest of the world is hearing NIGGER. If you want to be treated with honor and respect you have to begin with treating yourself like you deserve it.

It's so amazing how something like this can flip a switch in your brain. i feel so compelled to do something; to be expressive - much more than just writing this blog. This week I will create something artistic to show the importance of black Americans in the 21st Century.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Fishin' Season Has Now Begun!

I have my tackle box in hand and my fishin' pole. I heard from a friend that they're justa bitin'! Students that is...

Today I learned of three people who are nibblin' at the idea of having an opportunity to be members of an organization (RHA) that I advise. It's interesting how they swim in schools and see one person thinkin' about going after the bait and they all realize, "Hey, I want some of that bait too!"

My question is, "Is the bait the only reason I've lured you?" That bait being a nice discount on their housing. I worry about that a lot. Are these students just being interested because of the financial help they'll get? I mean, being an RA is totally for that free housing first and foremost. We'd just like to pretend that it's for all the RIGHT reasons? You know.. because "I really want to help students". It's totally not because they're just itchin' to jump out of bed for a random emergency like a fire alarm that just won't turn off. It's the all mighty dollar - but hey.. that's reality and I'd be the same way.

To catch nibbles with this generation - I always try to use my best lures. Sometimes I squirt that fish oil stuff on the bait that will help in attracting the student - you know what that is... The "It'll look GREAT on your resume and you'll gain some awesome experience" mixed with a "I think you would be an excellent..." I've even gone to the extremes by saying, "Think of all the money you could save and you won't have to be on duty!" That last one just never seems to matter to folks. I mean, there's no way I can equal $0 for housing and meal plan for a mere discount each semester.

The school year won't officially begin until August 27. I already have three nibbles and I haven't even put out my fish finders yet (my ads). This is a good thing. I do think they're genuinely interested in positions that are available.

Of the fish that I caught last year, I think they were my prize fish. Many of them have gone on to become RAs. I think they enjoyed their housing experience and want to be more vested in the process (oh, how very student affairsy of me) - I just hope they don't turn bitter by the end of the year. The pond's they're now swimming in are MUCH different than the pond I provide.

Each year it's a battle for the best of the bunch. Yep, a battle between recruiting RAs and RHA members. A lot of times I feel that becoming an RA is more highly valued than being a member of RHA and being the facilitator of community. Both facilitate community, however - RHA facilitates community on a much larger scale. Basically, all the students I "catch" and restocked into a smaller lake are much more easily caught by that fisherman (or woman) that is casting a line out for their own needs. I've become that stocked man-made lake!

I guess becoming that stocked lake is a testiment of what I do but it always causes me to enter into a fishing frenzy at the beginning of the year to find people to replace the fish that get "hooked" into being an RA. Are we doing a disservice to ourselves if we're just taking people who might very well be better suited for one position or another that don't last an entire semester? That's something that I've always wondered about. If a student becomes an RA that probably is more suited for RHA, how do we best serve the community? By having a body in a position or someone with talent for maintaining a floor, building a rapport with students, or building community? I don't really have an answer just yet, but I'm definitely thinking about it all.

Within the next couple of weeks I'll see what my "catches of the days" are. I have my bucket ready. Happy fishing and I hope you catch the "Big One"!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Free to Be?

For the last week or so, I've been struggling with how to tackle this particular topic - AUTHENTICITY. How many of us truly live authentic lives? Are our professional lives separate from our authentic lives? Do they blend nicely or is there a Mason Dixon line present?

I felt it was time to write this blog because it just seemed as though I was being presented with hint after hint to write this blog. First it was a conversation, then it was something I witnessed at work, then it was an article I read, then another conversation. Today was the tipping point when the topic on Oprah was being who you were meant to be - living authentically without fear. This episode featured Ellen Burstyn, Sheryl Crow, and Dana Buchman as well as many other prominent women in entertainment talking about how they have finally been able to be the person they feel they were meant to be.

I like to think that I live pretty authentically at work and in my personal life. Granted, there are things that are too personal to talk about at work - everyone need not know ALL of your business! However, I think there's merit to being "YOU" 24/7 as much as possible. Choosing to do things because you want to not because you feel obligated. To feel comfortable in sharing your opinions and standing your ground with your beliefs. Being able to share who you are with the students you work with confidently, without feeling like you'd be judged by them OR your supervisor - I mean.. we DO try to teach civility and acceptance, right?

I read an article today to research this topic. I knew what it feels like to live authentically but I couldn't articulate it. However, this article does it really well.

"Truly being your Self in any given situation means you are: at peace with your Self, in love with your Self, into your Self or at one with your Self. When you're being your Authentic Self you feel empowered, powerful, confident, capable, strong and One with All That Is."
(Excerpt from The Freedom of Being Authentic By Melissa Van Rossum)


I know for a fact that I hadn't been authentic until I made the move to Las Vegas. In undergrad I wasn't being myself. I joined a fraternity and did a half-ass job of being myself. The fraternity gave me a lot of my personality for 5 years - and honestly, I needed one badly because I was so afraid of knowing who I was so that was something that defined me. Then there was grad school - and I was still undefined. Beginning my first student affairs professional gig - I was on the cusp of living authentically.

A journey of authenticity - scary, huh? Yeah it is scary. The first year I decided to be me 24/7 I began by putting a rainbow sticker on my car in 2003. I wanted students to be able to identify an ally and a member of a specific community. It's a part of who I am just as being black is. In doing that, I was officially stating my orientation to EVERYONE at the university and community. It was scary and liberating - it was also a way to say it without me actually "saying it". Still a bit cowardly. Four years have passed and I now sport Marshall University paraphernalia on my new car rather than rainbow anything. I've gotten to the point where it's easier to talk about with students, staff, and friends. Living an authentic life on and off campus. I've empowered myself and now I'm able to help empower others.

Feeling empowered, confident, capable and strong is important for anyone in any field - the only difference for those in our career is that while we're pushing to be all those things while we're tryin' to help others to arrive there too. Do we ever make ourselves vulnerable to our students? To our colleagues? Are we being "too real" too often and where do you stop being real and being professional? Is it based on your own comfort level? If it is your comfort level, then we're back to square one - are you comfortable with who you are and what you represent? Shouldn't we be role models?

Let's talk about role modeling briefly. What is a good role model? Someone who appears to have arrived to where they are without mistakes or struggles? Or is a role model someone who will share their trials and errors, their successes and offer guidance on how to become successful? One of my biggest pet peeves in our field are professionals that act as though they've NEVER done anything wrong and chastise students who do make mistakes.

There's a quote that I began to say 4 years ago and I can't remember who said it but it goes like this... "It's much easier to live one life than to live two lives and just as easy to be yourself than to be the somebody someone else created." At the end of the day you only have to answer to one person.. and that's you. Your friends, your colleagues and your students will respect you more for your honesty. Express who you are more regularly and you'll begin to feel stronger, more capable, more empowered because of your honesty. And because of your honesty you'll live a freer more authentic life.

As the school year begins - think of how different it might be if you were more authentic in your work. Consider blurring those lines between personal and professional and allowing people the opportunity to know you.. flaws and all (that's right, Beyonce'!)

Sunday, August 5, 2007

I Went to College and All I Got Was This Lousy Ph.D.

I recently had an interaction with someone from the faculty side of life. I met this character during a random chat about professions and I had mentioned that I too, was an educator. He got excited to find another educator at the same university and quickly began to talk faculty lingo.

"I'm a mathematics professor, and I just got tenure and I'm 30!", he told me as if he were tryin' to strut his stuff like a fancy peacock.

"Oh that's cool. I'm an educator too. I work in Campus Life", I replied.

"So, what do you teach?", he asked.

"I don't teach in a classroom. I'm administrative staff. I teach and try to develop leadership skills to students", I answered.

He quickly replied, "Well that's not teaching. You can't teach leadership! You either are a born leader or not. You said you were an educator and that suggests teaching. You just work in Campus Life."

In the blink of an eye, my mood sharply changed. "I do teach. I'm working with these students everyday and if it's not learning how to be a better leader, it's teaching them civility. If I'm not teaching civility, I'm teaching on diversity. If I'm not teaching diversity, I'm teaching some skill that will help them in some form or fashion. A lot of times I'm teaching lots of thing in the span of a few hours", I said in a tone just 5 degrees shy of reaching a level of hot tempered.

"Well I still say it's not teaching" he said with a smirk on his face.

It was at that moment when I began to ignore him.

I went to bed thinking about what this random person just told me. He discounted all of the work I do. WE do... As if his work is more important. I quickly realized that I was being like this person by trying to discount his tenured track role. Being judgemental. I think it's cool that he has tenure. But I think it's uncool that he fails to see the value in the work of Student Affairs Professionals.

Thinking back on what this person's college experience was, he may have not had much of one. I surely would have asked him had he not been so arrogant. Did he fly through academic programs without stopping to smell the roses? And what awesome roses they are - all varieties, sizes and fragrances.

Can you imagine what it might be like if we didn't provide the activities, leadership programs, training, etc? Number one, it would be UBER boring. Number two, we would never learn as much about other cultures, races, religions, etc without the social interactions, trainings, workshops, etc that we provide. Number three, students would fail to see life globally. Number four, many students wouldn't have an opportunity to have a better sense of self. There are many positive results that come from the work that we do. We don't reach ALL students but we surely make a valiant effort.

So, if you fly through college like a speeding bullet do you miss out on something? Most Student Affairs practitioners would probably say yes. It's a time to try and learn new things. A time to figure out who YOU are and what you believe. A time to be that person who leads; one who contributes to community service; one who understands or attempts to understand differences among people; one who contributes to the world and not to forget - their contributions to our Gross Domestic Product :0)

I think it's important to get more from your college experience than earning degrees. There is value in knowing your coursework and there is value in knowing you've had an experience through some sort of involvement. It's important to enjoy your journey, take plenty of photos and have a ton of memories of the experience as opposed to going on a vacation, staying in and never leaving your room and coming back with a souvenir as the only proof of having had that experience. You would never spend $1000 on a vacation and do that - and I would expect a student to not do that with a $20,000 (or more) education.

College is a journey of many paths. Take time and see the different views. Take pictures. Develop connections and save room for memories. Don't let your degree be the only memory you have of the experience.

Well, now I've said all that to preach to the choir - but I feel so refreshed now that I've gotten that out of my brain.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Fishin' in the Sea of University...

The life of a Student Affairs professional is one that is ever changing. Whether it's a new position at a fabulous new institution in a land far, far, away from where we once used to live, the change in duties, or the change of the landscape - i.e. Construction!

One thing remains constant. The influx of wide-eyed freshmen.

I have to admit. The excitement they bring makes me excited! I guess it also helps that I work in leadership development - it's almost like I'm deep sea fishing for a marlin. Every year in my position, I cast out my reel. I send out notifications to students in our housing program about a great leadership opportunity. Students can apply to participate in this program that will not only help them develop as a leader at our university but will also give them a jump start in getting settled into their new environment because they are able to move in a week early. It's obviously geared toward the wide-eyed variety of student.

I get first view of these students in my fish finder. I see them interact within "schools", teams, and individually during this program. It's funny, because a lot of times I catch certain ones trying to impress me - thinking they'll get a better chance at becoming an RA, Student Government Senator, or RHA. Sometimes they're right! HA! That's that flashy type of fish.

It's amazing what these students are capable of. They come with many talents and sometimes it's unbeknownst to them what talents they have. Sure, they were told they could do just about anything if they put their mind to it, and you know what? They can. Think "The Incredible Mr. Limpet".

There is a student of mine from last year who had a rocky start. He was also a member of my wide-eyed group - this student's eyes are about as wide as one of those crazy lookin' monkeys you see on the Discovery Channel(ahhh.. yes, a Bush Baby!). He is a talented artist/graphic designer and was just ecstatic about getting involved. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to reel him in as I had hoped. Instead, he fell into the "let's party" school of fish and found trouble. Actually, trouble found him a couple of times too. Everyone wanted to write this student off as a lost cause and trouble maker based on what they've seen of him during his short time in campus housing. Luckily I saw a glimmer of hope in him.

I cast my fishing line out to him and with the help of our Office of Student Conduct, we "caught" him at the right time. Now I am happy to say that this student is definitely on the right track and has a clear vision of where he wants to be. At least for now - I mean, I DO keep a realistic view of my students because I've been there, done that all myself. Now he sits on RHA, Student Government, is a student worker and maintains over a 3.4 GPA!

I say all of this to point out this one idea. With a new year you can choose to focus on making your campus a better place. You can focus on helping students be better people. You can focus on yourself and how you can arrive to be the best person you can possibly be. Try to never stop having hope. Hope for yourself, for others, for the school, for the world.

As each of you cast your fishing line out to catch the "big one", remember that leaders come to us in all kinds of variety and are prize worthy no matter what size ocean they happen to be swimming in.

I'm anxiously awaiting the next bite.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

My Inaugural Post

I came up with a wild idea this morning. To develop a blog about my life in the field of Student Affairs. I'm not sure how many people actually have done this. I've seen some people blog to entire listervs. I've seen others just talk about their experiences in personal blogs (I'm guilty of that too) that include their love life, family and random other discussions.

This blog is unique. I even "googled" the idea to see what else is out there. There were quite a few college and university sponsored blogs geared to the field as well as "for profit" websites. This particular blog is coming from big ol' me.

I thought it would be a cool thing to write about my experiences in the world of Student Affairs. It's amazing how I've been intertwined into the threads that make up the blanket that keep each of us cozy, warm and fuzzy as we work with college-aged students - especially considering the cold start I had.

I chose the blog name "The Real World of Maslow" because his theory is one of the more heavily mentioned. To become a self-actualized individual is what he says we strive to be. I also chose it because I wanted something that would reference college students - so naturally MTV's "The Real World" came to mind. We work with these students just about everyday. We see the highs and lows and when life starts getting "real" with them and stop being polite. We strive to help the ones we REALLY connect with to be self-actualized individuals even while we're often not so sure if we've reached that pinnacle ourselves.

Each week I will strive to enter a grain of my experience into this blog. It's my hope that graduate students and new professionals read this and either learn from my mistakes or improve on my successes. It is also my hope that instructors in our field and other colleagues provide their own grains as we all come together.

The first few postings will be from previous posts I've made on one of the aforementioned types of blogs.

With that said and it being nearly 12:30 AM - I can retire to my bed knowing that I've gotten this nugget of an idea up and running.

Until then...

Dennis M. Hicks

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Do You Know How Important You Are?

If you've kept up with my postings, you'd know that I'm in a "writing mood" lately. It's a creative outlet for me and when i take the time to write something, I REALLY put in some effort.

Today I was watching a show I had Tivo'ed called "Iconoclasts". It's a show that comes on the Sundance Channel. I had heard about this show from a friend and it just so happens that I came across the show one day. I didn't have time to sit and enjoy it so I set up the Tivo to capture the episode. This particular episode featured Dave Chapelle and Dr. Maya Angelou. These are two people that I admire in different ways and i was deeply interested in how this meeting of two well known, black celebrities would work out.

As i was watching the episode, it just began to move me. Dave Chapelle is my age and he's talking to Maya Angelou who reminded me of my maternal grandmother - extremely wise and full of love. I was thinking of how much love Dave Chapelle must be feeling because I was feeling it just from watching the screen.

Maya Angelou talked about her life and the people she knew and had met. Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Jr., James Baldwin, among others. It's just amazing to hear of the life she was made to live.

In the episode she talked about how she could tell when a young adult was raised properly - by how they respect their elders. She also commented that while you should respect your elders, you don't necessarily need to agree with them. That reminded me of my own upbringing. It also reminded me of a story i was told the other day in which as a teen ager, this person would have fist fights with her mother. Something is clearly wrong with that picture. I also thought about how I treat senior citizens and how I give them respect. My parents made sure to instill this in me.

Maya Angelou was speaking with Dave and told him a story. In this story she said two things that resonated with me. 1 - "Don't pick it up and don't lay it down." and 2 - "Do you know how important you are?".

I'll tackle the easiest to explain first. I was confused when she said the statement, "Don't pick it up and don't lay it down." What in the world is that supposed to mean? I was confused. Then she explained. If someone says, "You're great!", "Your work is fabulous!", "You do everything fantastically!" you should consider accepting the compliment because if you "pick it up" you're also going to have to "pick up" the criticisms. If you choose to "pick up" the accolades you can't just "lay down" the crticisms. That struck a chord with me and my career and my art. If I accept all of the positive discussion about what I do I need to also accept the negative. If I'm not ready to accept crticism I should just graciously and humbly accept the compliment and move on without relishing in the thought that someone thought I was "great", "good", "awesome", etc.

The second thing Maya Angelou said is, "Do you know how important you are?" As a black American... this is EXTREMELY important.

Maya Angelou was telling Dave Chapelle how she had to have a conversation with a young black man who was angry at another black man and using foul language (she does a MUCH better explanation of this than i do). She asked him "Has anyone told you how important you are?" Again, my ears perked up and i listened intently and rewound it to hear it again. "Has anyone told you how important you are?" Wow - that is SO profound. So profound that I had to pause Tivo and grab my sketch book. I wrote down what she said word for word. Maya said, "Do you know our people slept - laid spoon fashioned, in the filthy ashes of slave ships in their own and each others excrement and urine and menstral flow so that you could live 200 years later? Do you know that our people stoof on auction blocks so that you could live? When is the last time someone told you how important you are?" The person Maya Angelou was speaking to was Tupac Shakur on the set of Poetic Justice.

Think about that. Think about HOW profound that paragraph is. The very thought of understanding where most black americans originated from. How they arrived to America. Think about the pain and agony our ancestors must have gone through. Think about the journey on those slave ships - the trauma of being captured and shackled. The pain of being whipped and abused. Raped and robbed. To have survived all of that so that WE can be here. This is what makes being a black American important. We carry on the struggle for what our ancestors lived through. We are the result of their successes in staying alive. We are a result of their fighting for freedom; for civil rights; for equal rights.

To be a black American and not "get that" is not understanding our history in this country. It makes me realize how thankful I am. How grateful I am to have been given the life I have and a sense of urgency in making my life have meaning and importance because I know how "important I am".

After the episode, I also got to thinkin' about why certain words and actions are unacceptable in black American society. For instance - dressing in black face - totally unacceptable just because of the history behind it all. Shirley Q. Liquor is a white man dressing in brown makeup and over-the-top clothing, representing himself as a poor, uneducated, single parent of MANY kids. It's like we stepped back into time. This is NOT the days of the menstel show! Then to have another person argue that it's no different than Eddie Murphy dressing up as a Jewish man in Coming to America - they MUST be smokin' somethin'. I don't recall a black man dressin' in white face makin' fun of June Cleaver.

Then there's the whole use of the word Nigger and any other version of the word (nigga, nicca, et al). Let me clarify something. I don't use the word UNLESS i'm trying to educate - so at this moment it will be used freely. I've heard people say, "Well how come blacks can say it and I can't?" Well, think about it... if you still don't get it, you probably shouldn't even consider using it. I don't even like to hear black people say it. It's a term used to hurt us and our using it doesn't give us the power it ONLY gives the power to the people who are CURRENTLY in power. As long as you continue to say the word, the more they'll continue to believe that's all you are. You might say "Nicca" or "Nigga" but the rest of the world is hearing NIGGER. If you want to be treated with honor and respect you have to begin with treating yourself like you deserve it.

It's so amazing how something like this can flip a switch in your brain. i feel so compelled to do something; to be expressive - much more than just writing this blog. This week I will create something artistic to show the importance of black Americans in the 21st Century.