Friday, March 30, 2012

Wearing a Mustache Helped Me Achieve My Dreams

I like to think that the picture before you helped to bring Nick Offerman to FSU. Evan, UP's Comedy Talent Buyer, and I were clearly very dedicated to the cause. But in reality, this show had been in the works since the time I interviewed for this position, close to a year ago. And last night, he was able to come to campus for a combination lecture/standup/musical performance.

I had no idea what to expect, but walked away so impressed by the man most of the world knows as Ron Swanson.

I formally started my career in programming in lectures, and so I take lectures on college campuses very seriously. As you will learn quickly from going to lecture showcases with me at conferences, or even talking to me about the topic for long enough, "I don't know much, but I know what I like." Moreover, lots of people have great stories to tell...but not all are engaging in how they tell it. I'd rather hear from someone who has a rich experience who can convey their story with sincerity, than exchange the name recognition of a reality TV star for a heavily coached, minimally impactful, rambling about a topic assigned by a booking agent or management company. Every now and then, however, I am pleasantly surprised by what an act brings to the table. Jill Zarin of Real Housewives of New York was a great example of this. As it happens, Nick Offerman pleasantly surprised me as well.

I don't want to ruin the lecture for those who are considering bringing it to campus, but I will share a few points. Nick is married to Megan Mullaly (of Will and Grace fame), and she figures prominently into his lecture. He talks about funny moments in their marriage, how they sustain their marriage, and how much of a romantic he is with her. It's refreshing to see a man so revered for his character's love of hunting, meat, and manly pursuits be so open about the love he has for his wife.

He also speaks in a highly entertaining fashion about how people should have hobbies and live lives "offline". Accompanied by a song, he talks about redirecting energy from phones and apps into actual life pursuits ("instead of playing 'Draw Something', why not f***ing DRAW something?"). Nick is also an accomplished woodworker, and that figures prominently into his act as well.

Other topics of discussion include religion, politics, relationships and individuality. His parting words of wisdom? "Paddle your own canoe." I want him to carve that into a wood plaque for me, I so enjoyed that particular bit.

He is a well-read, well-spoken, humble, polite, and quietly brilliant man who was an absolute pleasure to host on campus. I feel as though he imparted a lot of great lessons to our students in an entertaining and engaging way. I learned a lot from what he said, and hope to impart some of those lessons into my life as well. Easily one of my favorite events, start to finish, that I've ever been a part of. Thanks so much to the student staff of Union Productions for planning and promoting such a smoothly run, well-received event. I love my job every day, but this was a GREAT day :)

Monday, March 26, 2012

Learning to "Conduct" Myself

Today I kicked off my career in student conduct with my first solo hearing (albeit supervised by our Associate Director of Student Rights and Responsibilities!), and I actually got a lot out of it. Like most of my first one-on-one meetings, it was very short. Short, and to the point. But in processing it with Rod afterward, I can see a lot more of what I want to bring to the process.

I was very nervous as I went over my notes this morning- I wrote a script! I read a lot! All things I hate doing when presenting myself to people for the first time! But I think I did okay, if a less in depth job than I had hoped.

For the future, I've dedicated myself to delve a little deeper into how students feel about their code violations, learn more about them and how their decisions are affecting their present lives and future plans. I started to do that today, but wasn't sure how far to dig with students I'd have such a fleeting relationship with. But I feel as though as long I can make them think, and help them see the takeaway from their experiences and make them positive, I'll feel better moving forward.

Fellow conduct officers, particularly those more seasoned than I, how were your first hearings? What do you do in your hearings to turn them into more than just a session for sanctions?

Sunday, March 25, 2012

What Not to a University Sanctioned Event

One of my favorite and more inspirational sessions at this year's NACA conference was presented by Meghan Harr and Becca Obergefell, about conceiving and instituting a professional development series on a programming board. One of the biggest questions that it raised for me, however, was about professional dress. Both ODU and UNC Pembroke asked students attending the event to dress professionally for the sessions. That said, I've learned at the past few student "formal events"... a lot of our students don't know what that looks like.

So I'm drawing up a list of fashion commandments for our students, to help them be more presentable at formal events. Please, feel free to contribute as you see fit, covering any ground I may have missed.

  1. Thou shalt not treat the following as a formal shoe: flat sandals, ballet flats, platform heels, or boat shoes.
  2. Thou shalt ensure that bra straps are appropriate for the outfit, or otherwise hidden with a shawl or cardigan.
  3. Gentlemen: thou shalt not consider a blazer and chinos an acceptable substitute for a suit. They are not the same.
  4. Ladies: thou shalt not consider club wear an acceptable substitute for formal event wear. They are not the same.
  5. Thou shalt wear a properly fitting shoe- no toes poking out and over, no shoes that won't stay on.
  6. Thou shalt ensure that dresses or skirts are of a fingertip length, lest we look like streetwalkers at a formal gathering.
  7. Thou shalt wear dress socks with dress shoes, or no socks. Athletic socks with a loafer or lace up fancy shoe is horrifying.
What other student formal fashion faux pas have you witnessed? How have you creatively or effectively imparted wisdom on this topic to students?

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Life Lessons from Pinterest

So, I joined Pinterest earlier this week. In a week where I felt very bogged down by minutiae at the office, and needed a mindless outlet, the online corkboard proved to be just the ticket. It helped me relax and do something non-strenuous, non-academic, purely unnecessary. And I love it for that.

But something interesting happened as I got lost in recipes, inspirational sayings, and sooo many cute shoes. I started to see my series of boards (named for verbs- eat, wear, move, inspire, create, and read) as ME.

What image of myself am I presenting in these boards where I spend time "pinning" things that stick out?

You are more than welcome to go look- but I can sum it up: A well-dressed, positive, healthy and consistently thoughtful person. And in presenting that image, it makes me want to hold myself accountable to the images that I find significant.

One of the images that I pinned came from a former professor and professional inspiration, Regina Young Hyatt:

In my mind, this is the goal that I have in "living what I pin". If it says that I'm active, I want to work to stay active. If I present myself as well-kept, I want to fight the urge to not iron, quickly throw my hair up, and take good care of myself. And if I preach positivity, I want to make sure that I'm doing what I can to stay uplifted, and to lift up those around me.

Are there bad aspects of Pinterest? Maybe. Like other social networking/procrastination tools, I want to work on using them in moderation (And in truth, the pinning I've done the last few days makes it look as though I've been using it for months). But I also want to use it as an inspiration, as a guide, as a reminder.

What about you? Will you join me in my quest to "live what you pin"?

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Morning Musings: On Stirring the Pot

This morning while going through Tweets to see what good articles could help me through the morning, I saw this one, posted by both Joe Ginese and Lisa Endersby, two great educators in the field who tweets and links I have come to enjoy greatly :)

This one was about troublemaking. Not the sort of troublemaking that the Pranksmen of 30 Rock to your left are associated with, per se, but I'm sure you know the kind I mean. The dissenters. The ones who ask questions that others might tell you not to ask, the ones who question the status quo and bring up new ideas where they're not always welcome. For my part, the end of the year and times of officer transition bring this about considerably, so it's quite a timely concept here in the Student Activities Center.

The example given in the article is that of an engineer named Roger Boisjoly, who worked for NASA, who wrote a memo that sparked ire and frustration from his colleagues, calling attention to a problem that, at its worst, could cause the loss of human life. Angered by the potential change to the status quo, or "excessive worrying", his concerns were cast aside.

The loss of life he was referring to? The January 1986 Challenger explosion.

While many of the whistleblowing we may wish to do won't result in such a catastrophic end result (I certainly hope that's not the case during officer transition!), the case of Boisjoly should still teach us something.

What issues- in your work, in your office, in your life- are in need of some pot stirring? Even in far less extreme cases, if something feels wrong, there's probably a good reason for it. Ask questions. Challenge the way things are done if they don't feel right.

Some offices, or life circumstances, are more supportive of such paradigm shifts than others, but should a less supportive environment prevent you from speaking up? Not necessarily.

To those who supervise, are you fostering an environment in which people are comfortable asking those tough questions? If so, are you sure? For our latest student staff retreat, we realized in going over results that some students were uncomfortable asking us questions. And we never would have known, if we hadn't asked. And if you're not fostering an environment of curiosity, why not?

I'm far from an expert, but I've always been of the belief that you never know what you can change, if you don't start asking questions.

So throw on a fedora, and start causing some trouble :)

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Pleased To Have Spoken Too Soon, Pt. II

Ladies and gentlemen, the protests have arrived.

You'll recall my earlier concern that no controversy had arisen regarding the announcement of Chris Brown as support for T-Pain at his upcoming charity kick-off show, presented by my institution.'s here!

Today, both a protest group on Facebook and an impassioned email from a student surfaced in our office, frustrated that FSU would get behind such an act on campus, and how that reflects on the values of the institution. I understand the concern, and really want to make sure that we are diligent in developing an appropriate response to those concerns.

Taking all input: what measures have you or your campus taken to address controversial talent? What have you told students? How did your administration feel?

Sitting On an Escalator: SXSW Reflection A (The Big Takeaway)

For those looking for the more fun SXSW reflection, hang tight. I need to get this out first.

At one point during The Benson Interruption, a comedy podcast taped live at South by Southwest, comedian and host Doug Benson told a story/set up a joke about a woman at the airport he saw sitting on an escalator. He turned it into a larger joke about people on moving sidewalks, and society's general aversion to putting work into moving. While hilarious (and it really was), it also gave me a great way to frame my experience at South by Southwest, and a lot of other aspects of my work as well.

A brief history: South by Southwest started in 1987 in Austin, TX as a way for the city known for music to be able to unite and showcase music. Thriving on its status as a part of the counterculture, Kevin Smith referred to it as "a place for hipsters".

But he then went on to admit that it's no longer a place for hipsters, a fact made starkly evident to him when his 80 year old mother asked if he was going to South by Southwest. And in its 26th year, it has clearly moved beyond that niche market. With a keynote from Bruce Springsteen, appearances by major national acts such as Train, The Counting Crows, Timbaland, T.I., Jay-Z and Kanye West, and a tradeshow booklet that rivals Vogue or Glamour in its space devoted to ads, South by Southwest has outgrown its small reputation. Yes, it's still a way for smaller untested bands to be discovered, but they get to do so alongside major players. And with additions this year of higher education and ecological sustainability sections, and an increasing emphasis on developing its comedy section, it is showing no signs of slowing down.

Yet there are those in the old regime, those of the original opinion of South by Southwest's creators, who decry this expansion of the festival into a full blown media conference, longing for when the offbeat nature of the festival helped to "keep Austin weird". And frankly, I saw some of that in sessions and at events. There were those who showed open disdain for aspects of panel discussion that didn't apply to them (none more audible than the grumbling during discussions of electronic music at clubs), and titles of panels like "The Year Dance Music Killed Rock and Roll" show that a war is clearly brewing here. Moreover, I witnessed a general attitude that if you were at SXSW, you should be there for the smaller bands, and to enjoy the larger, more popular bands, meant you were there for the wrong reasons. And, to paraphrase Honest Abe, "a festival divided against itself cannot stand." Can it?

In this analogy, the festival is an escalator and the holdouts for the old regime could be seen as the woman sitting on it. They want to stay still, but are being carried somewhere (for the sake of argument, let's say that it doesn't matter which direction the escalator is going- I could write way more about that if direction was relevant). Think about this principle as it pertains to you- to your day, your work, your life. For my part, I see application of this analogy applying to consolidation talks between ACPA and NASPA, to the format of NACA, and even to the nature of programming on my own campus. Are you an escalator, hoping for movement and consistently on the move? Or are you sitting on it, content to stay put and get carried away?

I'm not placing a value on either approach, for the record. I simply wish to draw attention to a sharp difference in philosophy that I picked up on as a first-timer to the conference and festival. But I urge you to take note the next time an oppprtunity for change arises- are you the escalator? Or are you sitting still?

Friday, March 9, 2012

Pleased to Have Spoken Too Soon

WARNING: Opinions expressed here are my own. They do not reflect those of my institution, department, or students I work with.

A few weeks ago, I found myself lamenting the sad lack of discourse on our campus regarding an upcoming concert and its controversial support. I was searching for the fire that I had seen with so many issues that were, admittedly less important (outrage about a change in voluntary social media format? Really?)

And then all this KONY 2012 business got going.

For those who have managed to avoid the craziness surrounding this issue...well, good on you. Clearly you've decided to unplug altogether, or don't have a Facebook. But to sum up, the latest documentary film campaign of the organization Invisible Children is designed to make the leader of the Lord's Republic Army, and the antagonist for all prior Invisible Children films, famous. Not for the purpose of making him a target for our idolatry, but to make the point that if enough people know who he is, the atrocities that are taking place in northern Uganda simply won't continue.


Well, sort of. This article (which I am so grateful to Chris Conzen for sharing) makes the point that one of several shortcomings of this campaign, is that the problem is not one of awareness. Invisible Children has been creating campaigns like this for more than ten years, traveling across the country to speak with ministries and college campuses to spread the word of these atrocities. So simply posting a video and saying "I agree! Check this out! Isn't this terrible?" is a step, yes.

Then what?

The statements that I made above are the ones that I saw a lot. Awareness, understanding, visibility (the very goal that Invisible Children set out to reach!). But what I didn't see a lot of was this:
All the college students, missionaries, and celebrities can be aware of what's been going on in Uganda, and it won't change anything if nothing is being DONE. This showed an action step that has been all too rare throughout this process. There are arguments to be made as to whether or not the Invisible Children method is the best way to act (and I'm not addressing that here), but at the end of the day the action piece is important.

I believe in the disintegration of the Lord's Republic Army, and wish as much as the creators of Invisible Children that the abuse of children must end. I agree with the sentiment. But all the awareness in the world of a problem, in the absence of action (be it through a donation to Invisible Children, donation of time to spread the word, direct advocacy to the same lawmakers that IC has been lobbying, etc.), means very little.

How do you see the KONY2012 phenomenon? What do your students/friends/colleagues think?