Category Archives: Uncategorized

Can a Student Care How Much Their College Knows Until They Know How Much Their College Cares?

Since June 2013, I have been on close to a dozen campuses. When I am on campus for whatever reason, I always talk with students. Sometimes the students are invited by the deans and other times, I just wander and talk with students as I see them on campuses or in offices. I expected to hear a lot of dissatisfaction because of all the media about the high-costs of college and fears about an adequate return on the investment in higher education. I ask students questions about their future plans and whether or not their expectations were are being met at their chosen college or university. Students were more upbeat than I expected and out of all of these campuses and the number of students I spoke with, only one student said “they don’t care about us” when I asked if the college was supportive of students. When I asked why a student might think the college does not care about students, the student said that the college cares about students in regard to how well they do because it makes the college look good.  The student also said that the college seemed more like a corporation interested only in the bottom line—dollars.

I think we need to ask ourselves—“What are we doing that might cause a student to think this way about any college?

‘Blind’ Date Anticipation

In just a few days, I will finally meet a critical mass of orientation professionals and student leaders at their annual conference in San Antonio.  In preparation for my speech at the conference, I learned as much as I could about their work from their perspective, and I sought input from their stakeholders about how they see the role and worth of orientation.  Nothing gives me more pleasure than immersing myself in the world of the work of others. The learning is incredible and the amount of respect and high regard resulting from in-depth knowledge of a profession is the prize I cherish.

When I’m just a few days away from giving a speech to a group of professionals that I’ve studied, I feel like what I think I would feel going on a date someone set up for me. We used to call them blind dates, but with all the information one can garner about another person these days through the Internet, no date should be “blind.” Yet, until you meet someone and interact with them, there is this wonderful feeling of anticipation. What thrills me most is to see how closely the real encounter will match what I thought it would be like. I’m certain that I won’t be disappointed when I meet the orientation providers. It is a privilege to count them among my colleagues.

Very Superstitious – Helping Students Understand Mixed Realities

Break a mirror and you bought seven years of bad luck; put your purse on the floor and you’ll lose your money; buy your lover shoes and the lover will walk out of your life; 13 is very unlucky and Friday the 13th is the worst; black cat crosses your path and that’s not good; left hand itches and you’ll lose your money; a woman is the first to contact you on New Year’s Day and a year of bad luck. These are some of the superstitions that we hold to explain the unexplainable, and they are all negative and about bad luck. There aren’t many that bode well for the superstitious. They give us an excuse to be afraid.

What I have had, and I say this because I’m putting it behind me, is a fear of February. I discovered that February was a month to fear during my twenties when I would get down and depressed.  I would be prone to crying spells and I couldn’t see any good in my life. This was very puzzling to my young husband. One February, he took me to Saks Fifth Avenue and bought me a beautiful raccoon coat that we definitely could not afford. The coat was gorgeous and the gesture by my husband to cheer me up was wonderful.  I still cried. Some say that the long winters and lack of sunlight may be reasons for some of us to get “the Februaries.” I’m always glad when February is over. My dad died in February; my mother died in February, and a dear friend got a CAT scan the very last day of February this past week and the results were not encouraging.

All of these things give truth to the lie that February is a month to dread.  Then, I think about the number 13 and Friday the 13th, in particular.  I don’t fear; I look forward to Friday the 13th because our son, Dan, was born on Friday the 13th, the most blessed day of our lives. With this in mind, I decided on March 1 that I would change my way of thinking about February and make it a month to look forward to and have faith that it will bring me what my heart desires; it will bring me good luck. I will look to February with faith and not fear.

What superstitions and illogical fears do our students bring with them? When I speak with students now, they are anxious about their future. They read that our country is losing its promise. They hear the stories about college graduates who will never work in their field of interest.  A challenge for educators is to help students see their future from multiple perspectives. That is, they should understand the realities of the current context that are not all positive and not all negative. They need to research and study their possibilities beyond the dire headlines that make the news. They need to have faith that the American Dream is still there for them, and their college education will equip them to be successful in the way they define success and not in the manner that others define it. What are the fears of our students? Ask them what they fear and help them see their potential in a world that is full of superstitions and predictions that scare us. Help them change the meaning of their Februaries.

Coming to My Senses: Of Grandmothers, College Aspirations, and 8-Year-Olds

I’ve been spending time with our 8-year old grandson during this holiday season. Since my world has been about college and university students and because I, too, am caught up in the mad race that many all around the world are in about college and the future for our next generations, I look at him and begin to assess his potential as a successful college student.

For example, when he is playing flag football, and doesn’t get as many flags as his teammates, or when his friends play an instrument and he chooses not to, or when his friends love chess and he is very casual about it, I begin to think about college entrance test scores, how many service projects he will have to do, and special talents that might have an impact on his college acceptance and success. In other words, when he is looking at the other children as friends, I’m looking at them as competition.

And then, I move beyond college and think about the global competition he will face for jobs, and I wonder if he will excel in whatever might be the most sought-after skill for that unknown future time. Finally, I come to my senses and think back to when I was eight, and all that happened in my life between third grade and my senior year in high school.

Eight years is a critical age for children, but it does not have to set the course for their future. When I was eight years old, no one was thinking about what college would accept me. If any thought were given to me, it was with whom I would live and under what circumstances.

If I use my less-than-ideal experiences as an 8-year-old as an example, I can relax and realize that mistakes that adults make in bringing children up, opportunities that children miss, and coincidences that affect the lives of children do not necessarily predict what the future will hold for them.

I also have to remember that I was not a good athlete, did not play a musical instrument, and had no strong passion toward any particular activity. In contrast, our grandson is a good athlete, has a strong interest in knowing everything there is to know about football and the players, and he is passionate about winning in any competition. He has an extensive vocabulary, reads incredibly well, is an analytical thinker, is opinionated,  and relishes finding holes in any argument that is counter to his perspective. He has a strong moral compass, and when I want to bend the rules, he brings me up short on what is right and what is wrong.

Importantly, he is eight and is enjoying these few years when he is not anxious about college, jobs, and what the future holds. Being concerned about these issues are for the adults in his life such as grandmothers who know a thing or two about higher education and the outlook for the future.

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?