Monthly Archives: November 2012

Giving Thanks…and the Wisdom of Women

It’s wonderful that some of us celebrate on a special day to think about all for which we can be thankful. Attending the NASPA Western Regional Conference November 7-10 is one of the many experiences for which I’m thankful. The conference planning committee led by Lea Jarnagin, dean of students at Cal State Fullerton, did a fine job. And if they didn’t, most of us would have thought it was a great conference because it was in Hawaii.

I’m thankful for more than the time in Hawaii, however. I’m thankful for the opportunity I had to co-present at the conference with Doris Ching, vice president emeritus from the University of Hawaii. Our presentation was something of a retrospective of student affairs and higher education, and we tracked the decades with our personal career journeys.

I’m also thankful for the opportunity to participate in a panel that Teri Bump, vice president for student affairs for American Campus Communities, organized. The panel’s session was titled Wisdom: Our Inspiration & Opportunities. Hearing these remarkable women share about their lives in very personal terms was awe-inspiring for me. When it was my turn to speak, I was so full of gratitude for what these women bring to all of us, that I could hardly find my voice.

Teri Bump vice president student affairs American Campus Communities

Teri Bump, vice president student affairs, American Campus Communities

During this season of giving thanks and sharing, let me share some of their comments with you.

Teri asked, “What do we know for sure?” She urged all of us to think about the gifts we bring and the choices we make. She shared that her gift is bringing good people together. I think that she is consistent in sharing this gift and it’s much appreciated.

Doris Ching emeritus vice president student affairs University of Hawaii System

Doris Ching, emeritus vice president student affairs, University of Hawaii System

Doris urged us as professionals to critically examine and adopt a personal education philosophy; to practice consistency and integrity; and to keep the ideals of the profession in our hearts, minds and spirit. She told all of us that we were already sharing our gifts in ways that strengthen the profession and that our gift in return is self-discovery and powerful leadership.

Carmen Vazquez vice president student affairs University of San Diego

Carmen Vazquez, vice president student affairs, University of San Diego

Carmen said that she was a first-generation miracle. She shared examples of faith, spirit, and intuition in her own life and concluded that sometimes we get what we need and not what we want. She stressed the importance of having a sense of presence and being in the here-and-now in order to absorb and manage chaos and give back calm. She believes that we are here for others and not just for self. In making decisions, she encouraged us to be open to possibilities and trust our inner voice.

Ann Marie Klotz director of residential education Oregon State University

Ann Marie Klotz, director of residential education, Oregon State University

Ann Marie began with “We are the women who came before us.” She gave a moving narrative about the characteristics of her great grandmother, her grandmother, and her mother that instilled her values and give her strength. These three incredible women are role models for her, and she is certain from where she received her intellect, heart and strength.

Luoluo Hong vice chancellor student affairs University of Hawaii Hilo

Luoluo Hong, vice chancellor student affairs, University of Hawaii Hilo

Luoluo announced at the beginning of her remarks that she was disruptive and discontent, and she is a social justice warrior who does not suffer from a lack of courage. She said that what she knows is that in her work and life, she draws from three pools of knowledge: scholarship, public health, and women’s studies and social justice. These areas help her understand the value of hard data and systems thinking, all the while not ignoring her heart.

I hope this thumbnail sketch of the stories and words of wisdom of these women will be food for thought for you during this Thanksgiving holiday season.

Providing Services for Our Service Members

Today is the day we honor and recognize the service members who have completed their time in the military. Earlier this week, I was on a United flight to Kona in order to participate in the NASPA Western Regional Conference, headed by Leah Jarnagin. The Conference, by the way, was OUTSTANDING! On this same flight were many military personnel. Because I think about Hawaii as paradise and the place we travel to for respite, fun, and relaxation, I assumed that these service members were on a break for some well-deserved R & R. Respecting their privacy, I did not say a word to any of them on the entire trip from BWI to Chicago and then on to Kona. But curiosity got the best of me, and as we were filing off the plane in Kona, I asked the service member just ahead of me in line if he and his fellow service members were here for R & R. He smiled at me and said, “No we’re coming home for good; we live here.”

I was overjoyed in hearing the good news! When I arrived at the Western Regional Conference, I was sitting next to a community college colleague who told me that their college was creating a center for veterans and they were involving veterans every step of the way in the design of the center. I told her that from what I’ve heard, asking veterans what they want and need is the best way to approach any kind of support since getting support seems to be a sensitive area for some veterans.

Following our conversation, I thought about what it would have been like if I had been able to enlist in the military as I wanted to do following my experience in ROTC in high school. I had a variety of reasons for wanting to enlist, and I wonder today whether or not my motives would have been fulfilled.

During this reflection, it became clear to me that the best way to provide services that meet the needs of veterans today is to find out why the service member volunteered; whether or not that motive has been fulfilled through their time in the service; and find out what their goal is now when they return. I would venture a guess that many of the service members who had their motives satisfied for entering the service will need less support than those who were disappointed because their experience did not match what they imagined they would receive. These are the service members who may be the prime candidates for intervention in order to retain them in college until a satisfactory completion. If student services would focus on veterans as a group for retention, the retention rate for veterans and for the institution will be affected because of the number of veterans we will see over the next couple of years.

What has been their experience? What do they want now? Are our services sufficient to meet their goals now?

Amazed and Encouraged

Students continue to amaze me. With so much talk about whether or not college is worth the costs, I would guess that if four students at a private university costing just at $60,000 a year, not counting all the ancillary expenses of involvement and stuff students “have to have,” were asked if the mounting costs of a college education outweighed the benefits, at least two of them would say “Yes” the costs outweigh the benefits.

One reason I would guess that students don’t see the great benefits of college is because in the new book by Jane Fried, Transformative Learning through Engagement: Student Affairs Practice as Experiential Pedagogy, I believe I read that many students think that what they are learning in the classroom is irrelevant and disconnected from the real world, and that after they complete their courses they will learn what they need to learn in order to get a job or whatever else their goal might be.

In the Wake Forest University student newspaper, students on the Quad were asked just this question, and four out of four students in the class of 2015 said that a college education was worth the money. What were their reasons?

  • The job market is so competitive.
  • The wealth of knowledge we will gain make it worth it.
  • Despite the debt, the payoff is tremendous.
  • Education is important for the future of America.

It is so encouraging to hear these kinds of comments from today’s college students.

Students continue to amaze me. When I was sharing my thoughts during a speaker series at Wake Forest University, I was describing the context of the world in which our graduates will have to survive and hopefully thrive. I referenced the chaos, uncertainty, and disruption ahead, and I quoted Robert Safian from his Fast Company article on “Generation Flux” where he said students will have to “embrace instability” and “enjoy recalibrating their careers.”

I thought this would terrify the students, and I would guess that some of them were anxious in hearing this, but one student raised her hand and said, “What’s the problem with having to recalibrate and be prepared for disruption and chaos? I look forward to it and think it’s exciting!” I wanted to hug her and hold her up as the model to emulate! Is this kind of thinking and attitude amazing or not?

Student affairs can help students prepare their mindset to adapt to new situations, to continue to learn new things, and to see the world through the lens of an optimistic and competent generation. What some see as disruption will be just another challenge to meet and overcome for our graduates. I’m so encouraged.

Pressing Issues – Yesterday and Today

In going through some files recently, I came across a list of what I saw as pressing issues in colleges and universities:

  • Violence on campus and the changing expectations for security
  • Students in psychological distress and the changing nature of confidentiality for mental health services
  • Fear of Pandemic diseases on campus
  • Success gap between majority and underrepresented students
  • Alcohol-related injuries, disruptions and enforcement of the legal drinking age
  • Creative parent involvement
  • Measuring and assessing student learning outcomes for accountability
  • Social networks
  • Students’ expectations of college and figuring out who our students are today

I wrote this list in 2008. What do we see now as the pressing issues for colleges and universities? Are they the same and more so? Are they fewer? Are they different?

What I’m hearing as I visit campuses and speak with colleagues is that the pressing issues are the same and more so. For example, underage students are still drinking to get drunk and the new thrill is to “go get black out.”  Students used to drink in excess but to black out was a serious episode that most students took as a signal to stop drinking to excess. Today, I hear that some students begin the evening drinking with a goal to black out.

In 2008, we were honing our skills to figure out creative ways to have parents work with us rather than attempting to push them away as our earlier instincts had suggested. Today, some report that our efforts to control the participation of parents in the lives of their college students are encouraging more involvement to the detriment of our efforts to support students in their natural development of independence. There is agreement that some parental involvement is a good thing, but is there even a line to be drawn today?

I would love to hear what you think about the pressing issues of today for your college or university. I did not mention the obvious issue of technology and learning because it deserves a space all to itself.