The Student Affairs New Professional

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Learning To Fly - Post 23

Quote of the Day:
"Oh Harry, don't you see? If she could have done one thing to make absolutely sure that every single person in this school will read your interview, it was banning it!"
- Hermione Granger, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Yeah, I know I just posted on Thursday but I've been grading papers all day (for the Career Development course that I've volunteered to teach this semester...what was I thinking???) and I really need a break. So I filled out this survey that our department does for staff at the end of the year and that got me thinking...

One of the questions was about diversity and that made me think of some incidents that I've dealt with this past year. In the Fall semester, someone wrote the "N-word" really big and in permanent marker on the stairwell of one of my hallways. It was between the 2nd and 3rd floor on the South side of the buildling. And working at a very White institution, I knew that I didn't have any students of color in either one of those corridors. So I didn't think it was directed at anyone in particular; not that this makes it any less of a big deal, but it was something I wanted to consider when I decided how to approach the situation.
To be honest, I was pretty shocked and didn't really know what to do. I knew that at my undergrad, a relatively diverse and very liberal institutions, student activist would have taken a stand and would have made sure that this behavior was addressed publicly. Here, I was pretty sure my students wouldn't do anything like that. So it was up to me....
I thought about holding a mandatory all-hall meeting to address the incident. Then, I thought about what it would be like for my three Black students to sit in that meeting. I didn't want to single them out and make them feel even more uncomfortable. And what if by making it a big deal, I would encourage copycat actions. Or, let's be honest, how affective am i really as an administrator telling students NOT to do something. Telling them that I disagree with something is like telling them to do it (at least for some...I mean I don't think I'm as bad as Umbridge in Harry Potter but I also am not as delusional as to believe that all of my students actually listen to me). But I also didn't want to do nothing and make my students think that this behavior was acceptable. I wasn't sure if my students of color had seen the writing, but if they had, I wanted to make sure to send the message that this was not tolerated in our community.
We had never talked about these kind of incidents in training. We don't really have any protocol in how to address it. So here I was, confused and all on my own....
Well, here's what I ended up doing: I called the police and filed a report. They investigated and asked some of the students in the nearby hallways if they had any information. We had the writing removed as soon as the police had seen it and taken pictures of it.
Then, I organized some additional diversity training for my RA staff by having a presenter come to our staff meeting as well as go on an overnight retreat where we talked about the power of language.
But was that enough? Did we do the right thing?

I felt pretty good until about a week ago, one of my Hall Council members just casually mentions to me that the N-word is written on the wall in that very same hallway again. She said it'd been there for a while.
I went to check it out and it was very small - maybe why nobody had told me before - but definitely noticeable enough. The police just happend to be in my building (they were arresting a resident for smoking marihuana), so I went and talked to them. They said that filing a report really wouldn't do anything since most likely they wouldn't find anything anyway. They offered to help me remove it, but I figured I could do that on my mind - which was what I did right afterwards. I informed my supervisor, but knowing that the semester was almost over I didn't do anything else.
Should I have done something???

I really struggle at times with trying to educate students here about social justice, tolerance and acceptance. I feel like the things I did as an undergraduate wouldn't work here because they were geared toward a very liberal and already somewhat aware student body. Here, I would probably just turn people away with these methods.
My staff has mentioned to me more than once that they dislike how ResLife "pushes diversity down their throat." Staff has told me that they "don't believe in being gay." What do you say to that??? I've really had to change my approach with staff training from educating them about social justice to just getting them to the point of being supportive of others, wheter or not they "believe" in who these students are. I stil crinch everytime I hear the word "believing" in this context, but I fell like this is the best I could have done.

Okay, before I keep on rambling, here is the question I really wanted to raise: How much are we actually prepared as new professionals to work with that specific population of our campus?
I mean, I knew how to do ResLife before I came here. I knew how to do diversity education in a ResLife-context. But what I didn't realize was how different this education has to be based on your student popuatlion. I mean, I've heard people talk about but it just never hit home until I met my staff and students. And that was after training was over and I already felt unprepared and lost.
And since we know that as administrators we aren't always as effective in getting a message across as students/pers would be, what do we do to train our student staff to educate their peers about these issues? When our staff is already "sick" of diversity, do you really think they'll be effective in educating their residents?

Oh, so many questiosn and so few answers. We definitely still have a long way to go before being the "perfect" ResLife department, if there is something like a "perfect" department.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Learning To Fly - Post 22

Quote of the Day (actually excerpt from a poem):
"Some people come into our lives
and leave footprints on our hearts
and we are never ever the same."
- Flavia Weedn

About a year ago, an RHA President and Vice President handed me a copy of this poem. As I accepted the poem and beautiful flowers, I knew that while I may have left footprints on their hearts, they also left them on mine.

In Student Affairs, we talk so much about being developmental with your staff, making their leadership positions and jobs a "learning experience" for them, helping them grow and and and. But we rarely talk about what we can learn from them, how - whether they plan to or not - they are being "developmental" with us. And we never talk about how you handle this constant "saying-goodbye."

Last year saying goodbye was rough...but that was to be expected. I was leaving grad school, moving into the real world, not just leaving my student leaders. I guess I never thought about the fact that this "saying-goodbye" will continue to go on and on as I will continue to work in Student Affairs.

I wonder if it gets easier with the years. I don't really see some of my more seasoned colleagues go through these emotional rollercoasters at the end of each year. Or maybe they're just better at hiding it.

Enough about "saying goodbye:" I still have one week left with my staff.

You know, it's scary to think that next year, I'll be a "returner." This first year as a new professional just flew by. At the same time, it feels like I've always been here. Do you know that feeling?

Okay, somehow I keep getting sidetracked tonight. I've been looking up YouTube Videos of different Austrian shows (the musical Elisabeth and anything else that Uwe Kroeger was in). What was I talking about again?

Oh yeah, so this past year...
I was looking at pictures of earlier in the year (for the slideshow for my staff) and I just remember how we were all still shy and quiet around each other, still testing what we could and could not's strange how in just one year you can become so close and comfortable around a group of people. Then again, we've spent plenty of time together. From all of our staff meetings that used to drag on and on because we just wouldn't shut up - to the staff retreats at the cabin or just having dinner together. And next year, it'll start all over again...

Okay, I feel like I'm just rambling tonight and I'm not really making sense. So I'm going to go, but I will post more again soon.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Tryin' to Get Paid-Post 14

Post 14 from Tryin' to Get Paid

My Mood: Tired

Well, another week has closed, and it's one week closer to the end of classes, and one more week closer until I can take some much needed vacation. So, I have been spending my freetime looking at the places I can visit...Orlando? Arizona? Mount Rushmore? LA? Seattle? It depends on my pocketbook, and right now it's saying my vacation will consist of laying on the couch, eating cold pizza and watching re-runs of Jerry Springer. But, I have to remember it's only my first year, and given some time I can take trips to those exotic locations.

Today was our campus' spring extravaganza, or as I call it, the "day of debauchery!" Since I work at a small liberal arts college, the institution has some more room to allow alcohol consumption during major events. This is new territory for me, since I studied and worked at a large public school where alcohol was seen as a substance to be avoided at all costs, due to liability issues and legal impacts. So, as the day approached, I was very wary of all the booze that would be flowing, and ready to play bouncer for all the students trying to sneak in cheap beer...

However, the event turned out to be pretty fun to be at, and there wasn't that much drunkeness as I thought. Everyone seemed to have a lot of fun and to be responsible. Granted, there were a few freshmen with fake ID's (not much effort was put into it...using White-Out on a passport didn't indicate creativity), and only one person was thrown out because he couldn't hold his liquor. I had to admit, I thought these students were habitual drunkards, but I was suprised at their control and maturity, and I have to give them credit.

Since there's only one week left in the school year, it's time for the final year wrapup at work. I'm finishing year-end reports and finalizing my budget reports. Also, all my organizations are having closing banquets, so I'm eating pretty well, and my pants are getting a little tighter. Speaking of that, it's time for another banquet, so I've gotta run. It's frijoles and tostones tonight, and I'm hungry...

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Tryin' to Get Paid-Post 13

Post 13 from Tryin' to Get Paid

It has been a long time since I've posted, and for a good excuse, I Things have been pretty heavy since I last wrote, and I've been immersed in a lot of campus politics. Since I do campus activities and multicultural services, I've been pulled in two directions, trying to split my time evenly so that I don't short the other arena I hold responsibilities in. Add on top of that a less than sympathetic staff I work with daily, I'm really stressed out and tired. Oh, by the way, it's the end of the semester, and all my student organizations are trying to finish up their end of the year programs. They all want food and other things for their events (so my purchasing card is almost maxed out) and their advisor to attend (I'm barely standing upright). I'm doing my best to keep my head up and be positive, but it is becoming a challenge every day. Today, I got some good advice from my supervisor, cautioning me to take time for myself, so I'm trying to get my work done early, head home, and get some much needed rest.

On top of this...yesterday's scene at Virginia Tech was sobering and shocking at the same time. When I first heard of the shooting, I initially thought it was an isolated incident. But when I was listening to the radio in my office, and the report of multiple casualties came in, I had to stop working and pray. My mind started racing, thinking of my institution's security procedures (or lack thereof) and what to do in an emergency procedures, but then I had to slow my mind down, and focused on my fellow student affairs colleagues at VT and their entire community, and send them my thoughts and prayers. I spent the rest of the day talking to students and colleagues, trying to make sense of the madness. And, I hoped that the rest of the world wouldn't look at VT as a scene of carnage, but as a great institution of higher education with a well-regarded reputation of serving students and educating our future leaders, that will heal together and grow from Monday's events.

For my colleagues at Virginia Tech...stay strong Hokies. You've got a East Coast guy (and long-time VT football fan) thinking of you. If you need anything, just shout; you'll have a whole profession of caring folks ready to lend you a hand, including this guy simply tryin' to get paid.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Learning To Fly - Post 21

Quote of the Day:
"You know you're too big of a fan when...
Before getting up to get something, you always try to summon it first. Accio TV remote!"

It's my birthday today. I've been 25 for an hour and 6 minutes. And I've already celebrated my birthday in my very own fashion....had some vanilla ice cream, played a Harry Potter Trivia Game online and read through some new articles on Yes, I am obsessed...haha. And I have tried to summon things before..."Accio laptop." And whenever I see mistletoe now, I think, "Careful, it's infested with nargles" and then I giggle to myself. Yeah, people probably thought I was crazy walking around Wal-Mart in December.
Hey, you gotta stay young when you want to work with college students for the rest of your life.
But back to the fact that it's my birthday (did you know that Harry Potter's birthday is on July 31st, 1980...that means he's actually two years older than me...crazy, huh? and hermione was born on Sept. 19, 1979...which means she's older than my sister)...

Two of my RAs stopped by earlier today because they weren't sure if it was my birthday today (well, then yesterday) or tomorrow (now today)...and they wanted to be the first to say happy birthday. One of them came back about 10 minutes after midnight to wish me a happy birthday. SO CUTE! I love my staff!!!
The RHA Executive Board had a transition dinner on Friday and they got me a cake and sang to me. It was so sweet!!! Is anyone still surprised that I love my students and spend way too much time with them? They're just awesome.

Sometimes I worry though...because I know some of my supervisors think I'm too close with my students. I really don't think I am. I spend a lot of time with RAs know they can knock on my door whenever (if it is for help with dealing with an incident, a random questions, something personal or just to say hi), the RHA Exec Boards knows they can IM me even if it's past midnight (only if I'm awake and online obviously...but usually I am)...but I keep that professional line; I mean, if they're breaking the rules (e.g. if they drink underage...which we all know happens, let's just be honest), they can't talk about it in front of me and I better not find out; they know I'm not going to the bar with them; they know I sometimes have to use my official "boss" or "advisor" voice and put my foot down; and I know there's a lot of things I can't talk to them about; but that doesn't mean we can't have a personal connection and have fun together, does it?

Sometimes I think, if I had more friends in the area or a partner or a family, it'd be different. But the way things are, my choice is between hanging out in my apartment by myself (which generally means either watching TV or reading a book or maybe being on the phone with a friend or IMing someone) or hanging out with my students. No wonder, my students often win...or at least I never mind going to a dinner or doing an extra staff development activity or something like that. As nice as it is being in the apartment by yourself, it also gets boring quickly. And especially on your birthday, you kind of want to be around people who like I'm definitely not going to miss the NRHH Inductions tomorrow (or actually later today). It's not like I have anything else to do, right?

You know, birthdays really aren't as exciting anymore as they used to be. No more birthday cake that my mom made; no more sleepover parties with my three best friends; no more surprises (gifts are now "just" money...not that money is a bad's greatly appreciated...but somehow the surprise and excitement is gone).
I doesn't help that this year, I'm not feeling well at all. My throat hurts and I probably have a fever (don't feel like checking, so I'm just going to assume). I've been lying on my couch all day watching TV and playing around on my laptop. I cough; I sneeze; it's not fun. :(
If it hadn't been for my RHA Exec Board and my RAs, I'd say this birthday is quite dreadful...but they managed to save it and give me at least some happy birthday memories. And then again, it's only 1 AM and I still have another 11 hours to make some happy birthday memories.

I'll let you know how that goes....

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Learning To Fly - Post 20

Quote of the Day:
"There is real magic in enthusiasm. It spells the difference between mediocracy and accomplishment."
- Anonymous

I love conferences. There's nothing like spending several intense days with thousands of excited colleagues, sharing ideas, learning about best practices and new research, meeting new people... You get back so energized and excited. And you remember again why you were interested in this field and why you love this work.

I just came back from the ACPA/NASPA Joint Meeting and I had a fabulous time.
Many of the sessions I went to were very interesting and I picked up some good ideas for my new living learning community for next year. Five former grad students from my cohort were also there, as well as a lot of other colleagues, and it was great to connect again. And then the Dance and the Drag Show...
What else could a girl want? J/K. I know it's really about the sessions and not about the social aspects, but let's be honest, those social things are also great. :) And we all deserve a break once in a while and to just have fun.

I definitely enjoyed the conference a lot more than last year, when I was job searching. Let's be honest, last year I didn't really go to the conference...I was at placement. This year, I actually got to enjoy and experience the different aspects of placement. It helped that I wasn't on the recruitment team for my school...because I don't think my colleagues really got to attend many sessions and get much out of the conference.

I volunteered for Placement one day (Oh how wonderful it was to be on the other side...I wrote cards to the grads from my graduate program going through placement as well as the grads from my current institution...after all, I remember the anxiety and pain well enough); participated in sessions for the directorate body of the commission that I was recently elected to (lots of new things to learn but again, very interesting...I'm still not 100 percent sure how this will all shape out but I'm excited and I've met a lot of great colleagues and that's what matters, right?); and like I said before went to sessions and lots of socials.
I even presented a roundtable together with the program coordinator from my grad program and two other new professionals. It went really well...we had lots of people come (way more than we thought) and they seemed to really enjoy it. It was great! I was so nervous and anxious before (even though I tried to play it off)...after all I had never presented at a national conference...and a joint meeting...I still can't really believe I did that. Crazy! It's like I said in my last post...sometimes you just try to catch up with what's happened to you. Like being an adult...or a new professional...or someone who has presented a roundtable at a Joint Meeting...haha.

Okay, I need to get some sleep soon, but one more quick thing...
So I loved the Joint Meeting thing. I know it was huge, which made logistics challenging...and the food was way too expensive! But it was just nice seeing everyone there and not having to a make a choice for once. And I'm also a big advocate for combining the two organization. I mean, they both do the same thing, so why do they have to be separate? I know there are some philosophical differences, many structural differences and and and...but in the end, both organizations are here to support and educate Student Affairs Professionals. And wouldn't we have a much stronger voice, if we all worked together in one big organization?
And let's be honest, I don't think anyone would complain if we only had to pay one membership fee, right?