Thursday, August 30, 2012

First Day/Last Day

All my boxes are packed, I'm ready to go...
Earlier this week marked my last day of work at Florida State, before a few days of "funemployment", and then the big move to Boston. It was a difficult affair, not just because I was leaving, but because I am uncomfortable being the center of attention, and leaving a position puts you front and center for a little while.

However, there was an added level of difficulty for me, in that the last day of school was also Florida State's first day of classes. Ending a school year when so many people are starting one...well, it's disorienting. Preparing for the coming year is expected in our line of work- we work in something of a revolving door pattern. But in starting the year with these students, I'm even more invested in the work they're doing. My concern now is having my foot in the progress and success of two sets of students- my current/former ones (at Florida State), and the new ones (at Emmanuel).

I think the situation is complicated somewhat because I have not been "succeeded" - never replaced - yet. Without knowing the situation that my former students will be left in, I'm having an even harder time letting go. And frankly, to an extent, I don't want to. I don't wish to keep advising my students, of course- at some point that's going to be someone else's job. But I do want to still make sure that I can be part of their lives in whatever way they'll have me. I'm hoping that I'll be able to keep up with them, and make sure the students I have will also feel that I'm invested in them.

How have you handled the transition from one job to the next? Did you keep in touch with colleagues/supervisees?

Friday, August 24, 2012

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Big News!

Well all, it's been a great first year in Tallahassee, FL at Florida State University. I've had the chance to work with the most supportive Division of Student Affairs I've encountered in my career, a Student Activities staff that I have grown to appreciate as wonderful practitioners and friends, and a uniquely smart and competent student staff in Union Productions.

With all that said, I've been needing to make a change for a while and have found a way to do so, one that I'm SO excited about. You know, in the spirit of deliberate adventure as my bio states :) Starting on September 4th, 2012, I will be the Assistant Director for Involvement and Assessment at Emmanuel College in Boston, MA. It's a position that allows me to work in another area of student activities- that of assessment- as well as continuing with my work with students through organizations and the Commuter Council I'll be advising. It also lets me work in a few areas of personal passion, namely (a) social media, and (b) wellness.

I want to thank everyone at Florida State for the incredible opportunities that I've been afforded here. There is truly a special group of people at this institution, a family that I will be sad to leave.

And to friends and family in the Northeast...get ready for me. I'm excited to be living among you again :)

Monday, August 13, 2012

Oh Yes I Did :)

In addition to doing all the lovely writing I do here, I've also been given the opportunity to serve as a weekly contributor to the Student Affairs First Years blog.
Rather than criss-posting content, I'll provide a link to my entries there, in case you're interested.

This Week's Post: Leadership Lessons from the Summer Olympics

Monday, August 6, 2012


As I write this, I am watching what ended up being the end of Oscar Pistorius’ individual medal bid at this year’s Olympic Games. His presence on the track at this stage in the Games was long seen as impossible, and to many unearned. I’ve had a lot of feelings about his bid for a medal, and while I tried to express myself on Twitter, I simply needed more space, so here we go.

As a fan of the Paralympics as well as the regular Olympics, I feel the need now to make a slight clarification. I don’t do so to be demeaning or to seem like a know-it-all, but to make a point. The Paralympic Games is an international multisport competition designed to provide a field of sport for athletes with a physical disability. And while providing a separate field for these athletes, one of their goals is to “strive for equal treatment with non-disabled Olympic athletes”.  I say this to disambiguate the Paralympics from the Special Olympics- a better-known enterprise designed for athletes with intellectual disabilities. It is typically understood that the Paralympics, held immediately following each Olympic Games, fields a higher level of competition than the Special Olympics, whose events are held year-round and have only been affiliated with the Games since the early 1970s.

I make this distinction to inform the case that Paralympians are world-class athletes. They are in many cases as talented and exceptional as the athletes who are more commonly glorified in the higher-profile “able bodied” Olympics. I’ve had the opportunity to learn the stories of a few Paralympians (most notably Mark Zupan and Matt Glowacki) and have grown to understand that their talents and accomplishments are every bit as impressive as the athletes who get the high profile endorsements and are talked about so often in the media. With that said, I do want to point out that BP and United Airlines have closed that gap this year, and I was so excited to see them glorify athletes from both sets of Games.  

On to Oscar Pistorius, aka “Blade Runner” (AWESOME). Oscar Pistorius has ben competing in the Paralympics since 2004 (and will be doing so this year, after this Olympics), and has been shattering their records for as long as he’s been participating. He lobbied to compete in the 2008 Olympic Games, and was denied on the basis that he was “cheating”. As it happens, the assumption of cheating essentially came from him being deemed too good given his disability. After proving that no scientific advantage was given by his running blades, he was permitted to participate, and here he is. Pistorius put it best when he poses the question: if the blades gave him an advantage, why aren’t any of the thousands of other runners using similar blades shattering records in a similar fashion? To put it simply, HE is good- not his “legs”. And in giving him the opportunity to compete alongside able-bodied athletes, the Paralympics is starting to serve the purpose it was originally designed for.

To me, this makes me wonder what understanding the International Olympic Committee, and for that matter the rest of the world, has of the Paralympics. Are we headed toward a time where the distinction between able bodied and disabled sport will continue to blur? Or is Pistorius, as he’s already proven to be, exceptional beyond anything we’ve seen? Time will tell, but in the meantime I have one more Paralympian I’ll be cheering on after the Olympic Games close.

Friday, August 3, 2012

#30daysofgrace: A Challenge for August

Inspired by a friend I made through Twitter, I am challenging myself and you to put something positive out into the universe each day. She calls it 30 days of grace, and I'm sharing my list to hold myself accountable, not to toot my own horn.

I invite you to do the same- by deciding to be positive, it opens up a view of the world that stands to be drastically different from what we allow small frustrations and life's imperfections to turn us into.

So where is your grace for the next 30 days?

My highlights:
  • Returning Pyrex to a coworker with candy inside
  • Making flower pens for our grads as rewards for their good work.
  • Giving puppy treats to my friends' dog to celebrate her graduation from puppy school
  • CBS Sunday Morning brunch with friends
  • Running a 5k with coworkers and friends
  • Meeting new neighbors and their puppies
  • The warm wishes I've received as I accepted a new job and start the process of moving
  • Wonderful final retreats with student staff and colleagues

In Praise of Athletic Black Hair

I worry a lot about things. Having anxiety just makes such concern second nature. I even worry through any of the athletic endeavors that I engage in- ranging from more competitive aspects of my life (gymnastics, rowing) to what I do now (running, intramural kickball). But one thing I give very little thought to, both admittedly and proudly, is what my hair’s doing. If it’s not in my face, that’s all I ever need.

As I watched Gabby Douglas bounce, fly, and smile her way to history this past week, I couldn’t help but be impressed by her poise and dedication. And yet, in the face of such a tremendous display of commitment, she received widespread criticism for something of less importance to her: her hair. Swept back and clipped away from her beaming face, she drew ire for showing tracks (the occasional downfall of having a weave as she does), and curly edges (a natural by-product of sweating, no matter the nationality of the woman). I couldn’t believe that such consternation was coming from something so inconsequential to this amazing young woman’s success.

I’ve seen many defenses of Gabby and her ability to prioritize- I will share here the thoughts of BET reporter (and my TV journalist husband) TJ Holmes, who said the following.

Without becoming too political, I will say that the African-American community is one that is often seen as extremely critical of itself. In the same way that women in general are constantly maligned for picking on one another, this community has engaged in similar tearing down of its members. Related to this is the disconcerting trend of Black women placing theappearance of their hair over that of their personal health and wellness. After getting your hair done, who wants to sweat it out? Admittedly, not many of us.  But that lack of desire to sacrifice outer appearance is hurting on the inside, an observation given more weight (pun not intended) by the sicknesses of a sedentary lifestyle overtaking so many African-Americans.

That being said, Gabby Douglas and her hair are her concern, and hers alone. And what's more, she's defining her self-worth by something more than the strands that sit atop her head. Her accomplishments are derived from so much below her head- an athletic body (I couldn't make that happen for myself if my life depended on it!), strong shoulders, and that wonderful smile. She is a beautiful and highly poised young lady with a world of greatness ahead of her. And that greatness is going to come to her regardless of how her hair looks. So pin your hair back, salute the judges, and keep on flipping, Gabby. This Black athlete is so incredibly proud of ALL that you are.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Olympic Lessons from Inigo Montoya

Olympic Lessons from Inigo Montoya

[On the word “inconceivable”]

INIGO: Why do you keep using that word? I do not think it means what you think it means.

There is a word that has surfaced more often in the commentary of the London Olympics than I remember in previous years (and unlike the more youthful members of the “Fab Five” women’s gymnastics team, I have clear memories of Olympic ceremonies, and some commentary, going back to Barcelona). That word is catastrophe. Let’s examine that further, shall we?

Ca-tas-tro-phe (n.)
1.               An event causing great and often sudden damage or suffering.
2.              The denouement of a drama, esp. a classical tragedy.
Synonyms include: disaster, calamity, accident, and cataclysm

Why do I define it if it’s a fairly common word? Simple- I don’t think a lot of our commentators understand it.

This team has seen ACTUAL catastrophe.
The circumstances that some of the athletes come from, like those in Sierra Leone, the Sudan or Syria, are indicative of catastrophe. A major injury, as when a female gymnast broke her neck in the months leading up to the Atlanta games, is an absolute catastrophe. A bobble on a pommel horse routine, or two steps over a line on a floor exercise? Well, no. Those things are unfortunate. They are undoubtedly disappointing. And in some cases, they indicate the dissolution of a dream. But that being said…these things are not catastrophic. These athletes are committed to their craft and are showcasing that commitment on the world’s largest stage. And to leave without injury and the opportunity to represent their country are the main goals of such an enterprise at the Olympics. The use of the word catastrophe attributed to a separation of legs on a landing or the slight delay of fingers touching a wall misses the definition of the word, and the point of these games.

A Harvard Business Review article I read earlier today spoke about the loss of identity that Michael Phelps felt in the months following the Beijing Olympics, a loss that he chose to combat by returning to the sport. And we all hear so many stories about the struggle of professional athletes to assimilate to “normal” life following retirement or injury. Does the otherworldly characterization of athletic performances contribute to that? Perhaps. Perhaps (and this is my opinion) we are creating a culture around athletics that makes it difficult for athletes to find value within themselves beyond their achievements. This suggestion has been made in the case of the Penn State investigations, and has been voiced in any society where the importance of perfection in sport seems to outweigh the importance of anything bigger (education, survival, etc.)

For an example of this in the London Games, consider this: in mens’ gymnastics, as soon as the US team fell out of medal contention, NBC’s coverage excluded them. As soon as they lost the opportunity to stand on the podium, their representation of their country was no longer enough. The same happened for John Orozco two days later, after he fell from medal level standing in the individual all-around competition. What message does that send?

I have been an athlete in many different sports and at varying levels of intensity for the vast majority of my life, and I don’t ever wish to dismiss it as trivial. However, I am of the belief that it has its place. Any level of successful pursuit in a sport, one that allows for happiness and is devoid of injury, should be valued. And on this, the largest and most significant stage for sports seen on this earth, no one should ever feel like the smallest show of humanity in a routine (and really, a stumble or a slip is all that is) is on par with abject failure.

So no more verbal beatings, I mean it! (Anybody want a peanut?)

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Does Your Staff Rival Michael Phelps?

This might seem like an odd question, but I promise I'm going somewhere with it. I've been in a funk the last few days, for any number of reasons. But one is admittedly a struggle with the near breakneck pace of our programming schedule and, more importantly, the effect it's having on our students. We flirt with a pace that is at times bordering on unsustainable, and in a manner that at times threatens our ability to effectively help them process it all. I worry that they're working and not learning, as I would hope they would be. After a few days of letting that conflict of ideals get me down, a talk with Dad gave me some perspective. 

One saying that I've been trying to incorporate into my daily life is "Bloom where you're planted." Are you always going to love your job? No. Should you be despondent when you don't? No. Instead focus on what you can do within your values system and power to do what works for you. 

And then I thought of Michael Phelps, now officially the most decorated Olympian in the history of the Games. One could argue that the potential for medals is higher in a field like swimming than it is in most other sports. And one could also argue that the manner in which he's winning medals is different from how he's done so previously. Arguments have been made for both of those. But at the end of the day, he's doing something amazing, and his work is being recognized by those in the position to do so- namely, the International Olympic Committee. The key point here is recognition, a major point of the Olympics. It is a display of international sportsmanship, and the opportunity to showcase talents on the world stage. But it is also the pinnacle of athletic achievement, with a revered symbol of recognition to match.

(And to his credit, some of his most visible jubilation has come with his victory in team events. Have you ever been that excited for your own team?)

So I ask you- how is the IOC of your office operating? Are you cognizant of medal worthy moments? And if something amazing, exceptional, even at times superhuman (like Phelps' accomplishments sometimes seem), happens in your office, who is dragging out the podium for your staff?

Please note, I'm not suggesting the sort of blanket praise for doing one's work on par with participation ribbons or trophies for all who simply do their jobs. The Olympics doesn't award medals in that fashion, and neither should we. Good work deserves acknowledgement and appreciation, exceptional work deserves recognition.

It doesn't have to be something with the pomp and circumstance of a medal ceremony, or even as public as playing the national anthem from your computer when something good comes up. It could be as simple as saying thank you at the end of an email or meeting, as private as leaving someone a note or treat on their desk. But I'm of the belief that if you let people know that you see the good work that they do, and that you appreciate it? They'll want to go for the gold for you.