The Student Affairs New Professional

Friday, October 27, 2006

Tryin' to Get Paid-Post 4

Post 4 by Tryin' to Get Paid

Mood: It's Fall Break, and I'm on shutdown mode
Music: Talib Kweli "Listen"

Well, well, I'm sure the folks at have been wondering (or not) where I have been. It's been a crazy couple of weeks here on campus, but now it's Fall Break and most of the students have left for a couple of days of rest and relaxation...who am I kidding? Most of these folks are still here, they just party all night and sleep all day. The only thing missing in their routine is making their 1:00 "Feminism and socialism in post-modern North America" lecture. At least I get some rest after last night's Halloween dance. Our staff decided to dress up like KISS (I voted for Prince and the Revolution...that'll be next year), and we were a hit with the students. I'll continue to be a hit, thanks to a picture of me circulating around Facebook (it's not obscenely bad, but I don't look my Sunday best...damn technology).

Even though I've been here a couple of months, I'm finally starting to get the hang of things around here. I've finally figured out the budgeting process, where most of the campus partners' offices are, and gotten to know some of the wonderful faculty members here. I'm even getting out of my apartment and seeing some of the sights in the town. In fact, just a couple of weeks ago, I had Ethiopian food for the first time, and it was SOOOOOO good! Tonight, I'll have Jamaican food (I might try some grilled goat, depending on how adventurous I feel) and I might hit the new theatre of performing arts too. I am starting to feel at home here, and that feels wonderful. I can definitely see myself here for a while, and that's something I didn't think I would say during my job search.

And, I have learned one doesn't matter if the students traveled the world, cheer on Chelsea FC (appartently they're a popular English soccer team), or protest against the war in Iraq...they still can act like 18 year old kids. At first, I was really awed by these students' knowledge of world issues and tenacity to change the reality they live in. However, as I settled down, I began to realize that these kids were prone to the developmental challenges everybody has in college, and I am starting to become more adapt in using those theories I learned in grad school to better help them. One student organization wants to promote "artistic pornography", and other student group tried to bring in a Hollywood producer to speak without contacting their advisor...which would be me. As much as a headache these situations would be, I'm finally getting the hang of working here, and it feels great.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Learning to Fly - Post 6

Quote of the Day:
"Money is a terrible master but an excellent servant."
- P.T. Barnum

Here's my question for the day: how much is too much?

This week, we had one of our big learning community programs. There are three buildings that house students in our learning community...and the staff of the three buildings work together in order to put on three huge programs each semester. One of the full-time staff members is in charge of each of those.

So the one this month was mine. I was working with one of our grads and she was really excited (excited doesn't even describe it...i mean REALLY REALLY EXCITED!!!) about doing a dive-in movie. She got the RAs on her side, and as the supportive full-time staff member I said yes to their idea. After all, all through training we'd been told to "think big," "don't worry about the cost."

But how do you do a dive-in movie when copyright laws won't allow you to show movies anymore? And how do you make it educational?

It was bit of a struggle, but finally we had an idea and were able to add a positive educational component to the program: Our learning community theme is overall wellness, so we did a PowerPoint presentation complete with movie clips as well as educational information about overall wellness. The RAs picked the movies and came up with the basic slides. I spent countless hours ripping those movie clips off the DVDs and inserting them into the PowerPoint, as well as figuring out the timing of all the effects...sounds pretty easy, but let me tell you...WHAT A HEADACHE! Of course the program I was using didn't really let me cut the movie clips at exactly the moment I wanted them to...or at least not until the second or third try. Let's not even talk about the fact that I had never used that program before and had to teach myself how to use it first. And then the timing of the effects...How long should you leave a slide up? I tried reading through them, but then again, I read very fast. How fast do residents read? Based on their grades, not very fast (ooo, that was mean and not very developmental at all...let's just say I've been doing midterm interventions non-stop for the past few hours because one fourth of my building is failing...most of them not because they don't get the material but because they have decided to waste their rich parents' money and spend their college years drunk at a bar uptown).

Anyway, the PowerPoint presentation actually turned out pretty well (hopefully we can use it for something else as well). But let's talk about renting the pool: It cost $812 for two hours. And we could only get it on the very worst date (that of course fell right during one of the busiest weeks of the semester).

But yeah...$812. Okay, so the program was advertised to 600 students and we were hoping for a turnout of about 150...but $812!?!?!

We (or should I say "I" because in the end most of the committee work fell on me) wrote a funding request for our learning communities fund and we got $500. I also submitted a request to the Residence Hall Association, but the request won't be heard until Monday (already after the program).
About five days prior to the program, I had to face the question whether or not to cancel the program or just keep my fingers crossed and hope that I would get RHA funding. And if not, we could split up the other costs between all the buildings, which would cost everyone $130 (including some extra money that was spent on food).

I decided to go through with the program (after all, we'd already put so much effort and time into it), but asked all the RAs to talk to their residents and let me know how many were coming...and I informed the other full-time staff members that work in buildings of the learning community about the money problems. They were - well, frustrated (to say it in a nice way). I totally understand their frustration...but it didn't really help. I could have needed a little bit support at the time. Last week just wasn't my week (and that's an understatement) and what I really needed was a hug and a "it'll be okay." Or maybe some help on how to deal with this issue...

Oh well, the program happened last night. The RAs, at least the few who responded to my request to check with their residents, all said that between 10-15 residents from their corridors were planning on going. With 24 RAs, that would mean 240-360 residents. Okay, I'm not that naive but expecting 100-150 was reasonable, right? We also did lots of creative advertisements and really tried to spread the word in the buildings (at least I did...not so sure about some of the RAs...).
Yeah...we had maybe 50. Apparently there was some event going on uptown at one of the bars that I hadn't known about (it was a WEDNESDAY night!!!).

So basically, we spent $900 (because we spent a little less than $100 on food and refreshments) on a program for about 50 residents. Yeah, you could argue it was an alcohol-alternative (especially since there was that event going on uptown). It had a solid educational component and I was actually happily surprised about how many residents were watching the PowerPoint presentation).
But was it reallly worth it?

We've had problems with unsafe behavior around the consumption of alcohol this semester (more than usually)...we've had residents complain that there is "nothing to do on campus." Yes, this program addressed that, but still...
Should I have spent all that money?


Thursday, October 12, 2006

Learning to Fly - Post 5

Quote of the Day: "I have promises to keep and miles to go before I sleep."
- Robert Frost

I've spent a lot of time thinking lately. I'm not sure why because I really haven't had the time to think. I should have spent those precious few hours of free time catching up on sleep or maybe even attempting to have a life. Instead, I've been thinking...

Having these academic advising appointments with my residents is quite interesting. Talking to them about their major and their career plans definitely makes me think about my own career a lot.

You have those students, who're in business...because their parents are in business and because they want to make a lot of money. You have those students who are in pre-med because their parents are doctors and they want to make a lot of money. Very rarely you get the student who is truly passionate about they do.
Okay, maybe I'm making it sound worse than it is. Or maybe I'm just weird. But the thought of how much money I would make never even crossed my mind when I was thinking about possible careers. I thought about the possibility of making a living, which eliminated dancing from my list of options, but making a lot of money wasn't even a consideration. Maybe that's why I'm in Student Affairs...

But seriously, isn't it so much more important to be doing something that you love? Something you feel passionate about? Something where you want to read the literature even when you had a 14-hour work day and should really be going to bed.

Okay, so I made fun of my dad when he'd read all his science magazines (he's a physics teacher) or answer a simple question of "how do I turn on the VCR?" with a lecture about the physical concepts that make the VCR work. Yeah, I thought he was a nerd.

But now I get it. Now I'm that kind of person, who comes home from work and picks up a magazine or reads an online newsletter that's work-related. You know, I actually miss grad school. I miss being forced to read articles and books. I miss having heated discussions with classmates about current issues. I miss having the close guidance and supervision of my boss.

As a grad student, you get all the attention. You have your faculty that wants to help you learn and grow. That constantly challenges you or encourages you to challenge yourself. You have your supervisors, who closely watch everything you do and tell you what you could do better or differently.
Then you get to the professional level and suddenly you're out on your own. Your supervisor only checks in with you during're trusted to make important decisions on your own. Don't get me wrong...I love being able to do my own thing; I like being trusted; I like running my own building.
But so often I ask myself: Am I doing a good enough job? What could I do differently? How can I challenge myself so that I will grow as a professional?
So much time of your daily routine is taking up by taking care of the basic necessities of your job that there's barely any time for learning, for professional development and growth. Just by doing what I consider being the minimum, I can work 14-hour where do I find the time to do all the other things I want to learn about?

I'm the RHA Co-Advisor this year...again. And I just LOVE working with RHA.
ResLife is definitely me (yeah, I'm a ResLifer and I'm proud of it)...but I also have a thing for Student Leadership. Is there anything better than seeing these students grow into confident leaders?

We started having meetings for the upcoming regional conference (no, I won't tell you what region or you may figure out where I'm at...haha). So the meetings start at 10 p.m. I generally just rush there after my last advising appointments...after a LONG and draining day. Many of my friends are like, "Wow, that sucks. You have meetings that late?"
Yeah, it's late. But I don't care. I actually look forward to those meetings all week. (Okay, yeah, I'm really weird...LoL.) I spend more time laughing and enjoying myself at those meetings than I would sitting at home in my apartment and relaxing.
so we may have drama at RHA...what student organization doesn't...but we also have a lot of fun and passion for what we do. I can relate to those students. Sometimes, with my residents, I just want to shake them and be like "Wake up! What are you doing!?!?" But with the RHA Exec Board, I see myself in them...I see my friends in them...and I see their great potential and want to get to know them even better because they simple amaze me.

Okay, I just totally got sidetracked daydreaming about RHA. Has that ever happened to you? I don't even remember how I got started on this topic...

Oh yeah, so...well, I've been thinking a lot. We have a learning community that's the "leadership" learning community. Maybe I should ask about moving there next year. I don't dislike my residents...and my RAs are great...but I do feel a little out-of-place at times with all this talk about going to the rec and eating healthy (well, what can you expect from the Health Enhancement & Lifestyle LLC?). What's even scarier is that people don't just talk about it...they actually GO TO THE REC. I mean, I've thought about it...I have even talked about working out...but that's about as far as it goes for me. I can take a dance class...I can go running for like a week before I get sick of it...but working out every day? That's just not me.

You know, sometimes I worry I don't have as much time for RHA this year as I'd like to. I don't really feel like I've made that connection with many of the leaders that I had with the exec board last year. The conference prep meetings are definitely helping because we get a chance to chat and laugh...and I think they get to see a different side of me. But I just don't feel like "Advisor of the Year" material right now and I hate not living up to my own expectations. There's just so much to do...oh, I could come up with a million excuses. But it doesn't change the fact that I don't feel like I'm giving 100 percent and it upsets me. I keep telling myself that next semester I'll be able to work with them more...once advising season is over...but will it be too late???

I also worry about not having enough time to support my staff. I had all these goals and plans at the beginning of the semester and right now I'm just trying to make it through the days and get the bare minimum done of what needs to happen. Why is there always so much to do?
Everyone else keeps telling me that I'm doing a great job...but I wanted to do so much more...

Alright, now I'm just rambling. It's clearly time for bed.

Oh and on a side note: I finally get to move into my new apartment. Yes, the apartment that was supposed to do be done on August 1st. ;) You gotta love ResLife.
You can't even imagine how excited I am to finally start decorating...and not to live out of boxes anymore. Yay!!!

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Tryin' to Get Paid-Post 3

Post 3 from Tryin' to Get Paid

My Mood: Nothing a vanilla latte can't solve...
My Music: Mint Condition "Whoa"

So, I've been a little late in writing this latest blog. I've been a little busy putting out little fires on my little campus. Forgive my cynisism here, work is starting to pick up in my office, and everyone's running around crazy. Not that there's anything bad about it, but when it rains, it pours. (Did any of that make sense to you? Didn't think so...that's how crazy it is...I've lost the ability to be sarcastic).

There are a few big things coming up on campus that have my attention divided several different directions. Our family festival is coming up, where all the families get to see our campus and see how activist we've (or we haven't) become since school started. From my orientation experience, the parents here have some lofty goals for us to help their kids reach, like being a better vegan, do more social work with African immigrants, even find ways that the college can cut down on usage of materials made with non-organic materials (wha?????). From all this, I had to call my dad and tell him about this. I vividly remember my parents dropping me off at school, and if somebody asked how they could help me, they would say "graduate this kid...on the cheap!" It's funny how perspectives are from different walks of life. When I was 18, I cared more about getting the girl across the hall to notice me with my lame engineering pick-up lines ("hey gorgeous, I noticed your periapsis...mind if we went out and I calculated the time of rotation?) These kids are quoting James Baldwin and collecting used goods and selling them to benefit Habitat for Humanity.

Despite all of this, I have to keep reminding myself...they're still teenagers. No matter how much "War and Peace" they read, no matter how many times they've travelled the globe, they still have developmental issues. I still find myself reading journals and pulling out my Student Development in College to refresh myself. It's a challenge, with late night organization meetings and advising major conferences students want to plan (check that...want ME to plan), but I wouldn't be doing this if I didn't love it...