Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Superstorm Sandy and Sensitive Semantics

Well, I survived my first hurricane day as a non-Floridian. I thankfully have previously lived in an area notorious for its lack of a direct hurricane hit *knocks on wood* for nearly 200 years. But that never keeps me from taking these things seriously. I make sure there's extra water and canned food on hand, that the refrigerator and freezer are turned down in case we lose power, that candles aren't too far away, and that I have a nearby area with no windows to retreat to.

Even though I've been blessed to be missed by hurricanes for over a quarter century, there are elements of the reaction to storms that I find...unsettling. My least favorite phrase surrounding storms: "Nothing's happening."

I generally have one of two reactions to this sentiment:

(1) That just means, "Nothing's happening...to you."
Yes, Boston was lucky to escape the brunt of this storm, just as Tampa has managed to avoid serious storm trouble for so many years. But for the people in New York, New Jersey, and parts of Rhode Island, something's happening. And it's nothing good. People are losing their homes, loved ones, and ability to feel safe in their own home. It's a tremendously individualistic attitude that can look at a storm like that, and think only "Why isn't this more dramatic?"
Would you have preferred this?
Related to that: (2) Would you prefer the alternative?  If you were lucky enough to stay home from work in case of an emergency, and could spend the day looking up false pictures of storms and stream Netflix without an interruption of power, why are you disappointed? Would you rather spend the day cowering from rising winds, nervously watching trees in anticipation of them falling, and inspecting damage and trying to catch up with loved ones who are unaccounted for? Embrace an attitude of gratitude, say thank goodness you were spared, and find out what you can do for those who weren't so lucky.

My thoughts and well wishes are with my friends and family in the path of the storm, and I hope that the video below makes you smile a little bit. Stay safe, everyone!

Friday, October 26, 2012

This Week on Student Affairs First Years: Forty Miles to a Ph.D.

As with last week's post, I want to post the content here in full so all can read.
Big news, so wish me luck :)

Riley: Granddad, can you take us into the city tomorrow to watch the R. Kelly trial?
Granddad: Hell, no. But you can walk.
Riley: It's forty miles!
Granddad: All the money I spent on them damn Nikes? You better just do it.
-The Boondocks

A few months ago, I was at McDonald’s getting reinforcements for my coworkers who were slaving away at an event, where I met a man who (as happens often) mistook me for a student. He expressed the same incredulity as most others when I told him I had in fact completed two degrees, and was thinking about a third. He then told me his own journey through education, about how hard he worked to complete a degree, and how life got in the way of his own attempts to get a doctorate. His advice: “Do it now. Once life gets in the way, you may never do it.”

The above quote from The Boondocks, one of my all-time favorite shows, illustrates how I feel about the journey toward getting a Ph.D. Like the R. Kelly trial was to Riley, it’s something very important to me. I love the opportunity it will give me to research intensively and contribute to the field of Student Affairs. And it will make it easier to teach later in life, an ultimate goal for me.

That forty miles on foot? It’s going to be the long nights, the studying when I don’t always feel like it, the attempts to be competent in both my career and my academic pursuits (please note the intentional omission of the word “balance”), and the money it will take me to get there. I don’t anticipate that being easy, but I do anticipate it being worth it.

And as for the Nikes? That’s everything I’ve done to this point that will help me through it all. All the recreational reading I do. The writing and presentations I’ve done to sharpen my academic skills. The friends and family I have who will support me, and in some cases be going on a similar journey alongside me. So just like Riley toward my own “trial of the century”, I better just do it. So here we go...let the application process begin. It’ll be a long one, but I’m sure you’ll hear from me along the way.

Trust me. I’m going to be a doctor :) Someday I will be called Dr. Marfo.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

This Past Week on Student Affairs First Years: Real World 101

How's he paying for all that? Where does he keep his wallet?
While I typically like to post the link to my posts at Student Affairs First Years, I wanted to share the full text of this one, as it was a collaborative effort. To all who weighed in on the question, thank you!

A major perk of my professional life is that I get to grocery shop regularly. Be it for an RHA program or for a service organization who will be cooking dinner at a shelter, our stringent purchasing card policies mean that when they shop, I shop. And since I shop for groceries the way many shop for clothes or shoes, this makes me very happy. However, it turned into a contemplative exercise today when Greg, the student I went with this morning, casually mentioned that this would be “good practice” for when he moves off campus next semester. I asked him to tell me more, and I learned that he never really learned how to go grocery shopping. I hadn’t realized it was a skill!

As we walked back to campus and he told me more about why he was moving off, my mind wandered to other things I’ve been told students “don’t know how to do.” I speak often of the need for a “real world” class, required for graduation, where seniors and those finishing their college careers learn the skills that we don’t already teach, but that they will need to be suc
cessful in life. I took to social media to see what else should be included in this potential course. Check out the responses, which I’ve arranged by category for your convenience! (Thanks to all who gave input, this was a fun way to spend a morning!)


  • Appropriate dress for professional situations
  • How to iron
  • How to do laundry
  • How to tie a tie and properly tuck a dress shirt
  • When is a suit buttoned v. when is it unbuttoned

  • How to change a tire
  • How to check oil

  • How to accept and manage conflict
  • How to leave an intelligible voicemail
  • How to speak on the phone
  • How to record an appropriate outgoing message
  • Learning the art of appropriate conversation (it sounds silly, but just think about what our students share with us, and how carefree they are in sharing information)
  • How to write in cursive
  • How to know when something should be spoken about in person v. an email v. a text

  • How to understand a lease
  • How to choose a primary care physician
  • How to select a retirement plan and other benefits

  • How to budget your money (among the most common answers)
  • Understanding loans and banking skills
  • How to write a check (yes, I know of students who have never done or don’t know how to do this)
  • How to responsibly use credit
  • How to grocery shop
  • How to do your taxes, if only on something like TurboTax software

  • How to contract a moving company
  • How to set up utilities
  • How to change your mailing address with the post office (I’m fighting that battle in my office right now!)
  • Tenant-landlord rights in your state

  • How to cook without using a microwave
  • The electoral college (which they should be learning elsewhere, but I like the answer!)

What other life skills should students learn about before they leave college? What do you wish you knew before you left?

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

What Have You Learned From Your Boss?

Happy National Boss' Day to you all! Whether we like it or not, chances are the majority of us have bosses "(to the self-employed, you have a boss: it's you!), and today is the day to thank them.

Thank them for who they have made you as a professional, no matter how they've done that. Ann Marie Klotz posted a great question this morning on Twitter, and it really got me thinking about my life as an employee, all the jobs I've had, and how those experiences have made me who I am.

Think about it. In the best cases, your boss has been someone you can learn from. Whether he or she creates intentional learning opportunities, or sets an example for you to observe, you can learn from your supervisor. In the worst, there is an equally powerful lesson. Just as I tell students being in an internship or job that you don't like isn't a loss, but an opportunity to learn what you don't want to do, a boss whose style doesn't work for you is a way for you to know (a) how you don't wish to be managed, and (b) for some, how to not manage those who work with you!

I'll end this post with a few lessons that I've learned from my bosses over the years.

-It's okay to have a bad day at work, so long as you rebound from it and can still be effective.

-Always make sure you have paper and something to write with at an event. Guaranteed, if you don't, someone will need you to write something down.

-Find an office culture that allows you to be yourself. You spend a lot of time at work, you should work in an environment that supports your quirks, your strengths, and occasional silliness.

-Do whatever it takes to develop the people that work for you. Invest in them. Whether that's time, energy, or sometimes money, they will be better for it and so will you.

-And lastly, as a nod to my former internship supervisor/good friend, "You can't wear pajamas in here, this isn't college." (Those who work with me know I take work attire very seriously now!)

To echo Ann Marie's question, what is the best lesson you've learned from a supervisor?

Friday, October 5, 2012

This Week's Student Affairs First Years Post

Recalling a post with big questions for student affairs during a time of year where we welcome potential new professionals: Big Questions for Careers in Student Affairs Month