Chatting With the @ACPAPrez

ACPA President Gavin Henning

ACPA President Gavin Henning

As many of you know, the fabulous Kimberly White sat down with ACPA President and Master of Higher Education Administration and Doctorate of Education Program Director at New England College, Gavin Henning and had a great conversation with him on Google Hangout about his journey in Student Affairs and advice he has for graduate students and new professionals which you can find here: #SALEAD AND ACPA.

As well, the awesome Dustin Ramsdell recently chatted with Gavin on the Student Affairs Spectacular Podcast about his journey in ACPA, some of his current projects as ACPA President and what he does for fun.

So, with such great conversations already had with our ACPA President, I wanted to really pick his brain about leadership. Being one of the most visible leaders in our field, I figured he would have some great insights and experiences on leadership, and he did not disappoint.

The first question I asked the Michigan State alum was what was leadership to him. His response was quick and clear: “The ability to make things happen; to be able to have a vision, get people involved and to be able to execute”. One of the most resonating and empowering comments he made was about the difference between personal vs. positional leadership; That a person did not need to have a title or position to be a leader. For me I have always supported this and was thrilled to hear that of the shared philosophy.

My next question was more about Gavin and inquired into how and why he considers himself a leader. He responded humbly and referred to his steps he previously mentioned of “making things happen”. He and I chatted then about the upcoming Presidential Symposium and his ability to have a vision, get people involved and able to get it executed. And by the way, definitely check out the symposium! There is a really interesting new way to become engaged with the program on your own campus during the symposium! he goes into great detail with it in Dustin’s Podcast.

From there we journeyed down a conversation of more personal leadership and what he found the most difficult in leadership. We chatted about self-awareness and self-reflection and the need to be aware of your own personal strengths and weaknesses whether it is in reference to cultural competence, skills and practices, etc. I found it great that he was self-aware to know and take ownership of his strengths and weaknesses and proactively worked to learn and educate himself. I think we all strive to do this, but it is a struggle and it is great to have a leader at the helm who examples this so well. We briefly went on a tangent into an area that I’ve been thinking about lately; in that no one is perfect and that life is all about the learning. No person on Earth, stops learning and that it is what we do with our education and new perspectives that help us “make things happen” and become leaders.

One of my final questions to him was what area did he hope to improve on with ACPA’s help? We began chatting about the difference between globalization and internationalization, basing our conversation on a piece by past ACPA President Dennis C. Roberts where globalization is at its basis transplanting something or someone from one area to another while internationalization is the integration of lives and practices from one area to another. It was fascinating listening to Gavin reflect on this during our chat.

My final question was a fun one and I closed with asking him what his favorite things about being ACPA President has been thus far. And in a heartbeat he said “the people”. The ability to interact and meet people from across our field and beyond has been what he has enjoyed the most; from meeting the Chinese delegation at the 2015 ACPA Convention to working with Erik Qualman to having the honor of writing forewords as ACPA President for professionals in the field.

Before I knew it, we were signing off with the traditional Michigan State University salutation and farewell Go Green!

Leadership The Ability to Make Things Happen

Reflecting on our conversation, the significance behind the phrase “the ability to make things happen” is not only empowering but allows for ownership and the opportunity for each of us to take a part in leading our field, our campuses, our families and even our individual lives regardless of titles or positions. Its about the actions and not the positions.

It was so great to be able to chat with Gavin, a leader, in many ways, in our field and to have the opportunity to learn about and understand leadership even more so from our ACPA President.

Thank you, Gavin, for taking the time to chat and chuckle with me at 9:00 AM and for providing such great insights and perspectives into leadership!

Until next time!

Peace, Love and Pandas!

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Leader ↔ Blogger

Over the past few months I’ve been more attuned to leadership.

Leadership is something we share and encourage amongst friends, colleagues and students. As Student Affairs Professionals we work on leadership within ourselves each day (Or at least we should). In our various events, programs and office structures we try to provide opportunities for growth and to experience various facets of leadership from running meetings to conflict management to decision making to team building, etc.

As you know I’ve been blogging for over two years now and vlogging for two weeks. In the world of blogging (for a lack of an overall umbrella term) there are several platforms: you can blog (written word), podcast (spoken), or vlog (visual). On these platforms we create content for consumption, be it personal or professional.

So what is the similarity between a leader and a blogger?

Courtesy of Brian D. Proffer

Courtesy of Brian D. Proffer

Its the vulnerability that both require.

Both as a leader and/or blogger, you are putting yourself, your work and your content out in the world for others to promote, critique, and a myriad of other actions. Regardless of the intent of a leader’s action/decision or the content of a blog post, the multitude of perspectives that may interact with those actions/decisions or may read the content of a blog post can be taken in many ways.

We, as consumers, know there are good leaders and bloggers and that there are those who need more leadership skills training or content development. But in spite of what a leader or blogger lacks, they are still taking a step into the unknown and being willing to be “targets” for the consumers.

On the flip side, as Leaders and Bloggers we should understand that the content we create and put out there will not appease everyone nor will it be agreeable with everyone. We need to understand that we are putting ourselves out there for critiques and will inevitably encounter perspectives and individuals who challenge and/or support decisions and content we submit. Its a process in learning to triage the critiques and feedback, both good and bad. It’s solely on us on how we react and utilize the good, the bad and the ugly. It’s also upon us to determine if we need to improve, change, alter or regroup depending on feedback and our goals and reasons for putting ourselves in a leadership position or being a blogger.

I’m still musing over this similarity between the two, but thought I’d share what I’ve mused over so far :)

Until next time!

Peace, Love and Pandas!

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That Moment

Think back to a moment in time when for a few moments, everything in the world seemed right. When things were just falling into place, and everyone was just clicking.

Courtesy of Howell Nature Center

Courtesy of Howell Nature Center

For the past two days I’ve been away on a training retreat with my fellow office staff and student directors to prepare for the up coming school year. For both days we were setting the base work for planning student events on campus which included talking about mission and vision, our structure, expectations, the 101s of programming, and what weekly meetings will be like etc. We also, of course, did a significant amount of challenges and low ropes courses highlighting communication styles, awareness, team work, strengths and weaknesses and so forth.

I know we all learned something over that 36 hour time span we were together.

But for me, what has really stuck with me the most, was our canoeing adventure. There were no key characteristic assessments or specific learning outcome to achieve other than just being together. I was in a canoe with Mallory, one of our awesome new Events Directors. We chatted and canoe raced the other canoes and just kinda floated around the lake learning more about each other.

At one point we realized that we were taking on water pretty quickly. So we rowed to shore and swapped out canoes. And as we were rowing back out to join our fellow canoers, there was a moment when I was having a great conversation with Mallory and also able to see everyone else out on the lake. Some were just chilling and floating along, others were creating adventures in the lilies, and yet others were jumping into the lake (literally). But at that moment, I got a shiver of chills. It was a quintessential vision and experience of what I love about Student Affairs. It was people coming together, enjoying life, learning about each other, experiencing and trying new things and just having fun. Its one of those memories that will always be engrained in my mind.

We all get bogged down in the daily mires of tasks and responsibilities, contracts, scholarship processing, registration, advising, parents, programs and more. And sometimes one just needs that little reminder of why we do our job and what the basic foundation of our field is for; to create experiences for our students and in a way ourselves, to learn, love experience and grow.

So think about that time you had a moment when you said to yourself “THIS is why I am a Student Affairs Professional” and hold on to that and use that as a tool to get you through those rough days. Because it is SO worth it even if they may be few and far between moments in our lives.

Until next time,

Peace, Love and Pandas!

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Hello World, It’s Me, Brian! is Vlogging!

After many months of back and forth I’ve decided to try my hand at vlogging. Now, I’m an awkward and soft spoken individual and those of you who may follow it, will see that. However, its a new adventure for me, so I hope some of you check it out :)

For my inaugural video I decided to take the latest craze of Dubsmash and in true Student Affairs form, figure out how to utilize it for our field. My end result? Me giving a pep talk for the upcoming year to all my #SAPeeps, and infusing it with my Dubsmashing. It’s a riot. So check it out and hope you subscribe to that as well as follow me on here! Here’s to a new adventure!

Until next time,

Peace, Love and Pandas!

Posted in Dubsmash, Fun, Higher Education/Student Affairs, Inspiration, Life, Technology/Social Media, Tips and Hints, Tips and Tricks, Vlogs | Leave a comment

What the GOP Debate Taught Me

So….how about that debate?

I have to admit I love me some political debates. Especially when they are for elections.

As you know the Grand Old Party (GOP) Debate was last night. They held 2 debates for the 17 candidates, based on current standings in the polls. Candidates 11-17 debated at 5:00 PM and the top 10 candidates debated at 9:00 PM, both debates airing on FOX NEWS.

Now, I consider myself middle of the road, socially liberal and fiscally conservative when I’m forced to label myself.However I prefer to just exist and be able to pick and choose my candidates regardless of the party affiliation. Now, there are people who think this is a horrible practice, and have debated with me on going straight ticket and that is another blog post for the future.

Courtesy of Brian D. Proffer

Courtesy of Brian D. Proffer

Anyway, I sat down last night with my glass of cabernet, gallon of butter pecan ice cream and computer with my Tweetdeck to watch and engage in the 2016 GOP Debate.

Overall the debate was interesting. It really challenged me to think outside of my box and learn a different perspective. I was Googling just as much as I was Tweeting so that I could learn and understand what they were speaking of. While I think that the moderation was a hot mess and at times the debate was childish and more SNL than than debate, it confirmed a lot of things for me as well, I learned a lot.

I learned that tolerance is not within everyone’s moral compass. I learned that there truly can be political mavericks. I learned of the fine line that exists between politicians and zealots. I learned that passion can be misdirected. I learned that the need to win and dominate can overpower the need to be successful and purposeful. I learned that tolerant intolerance and intolerant tolerance is such a thing. And I learned that the good for an individual can supercede the good of the many.

Believe me, I had lots to say during the debate. Mostly intellectual but there were definitely snarky comments thrown in there too. However upon reflecting on the telecast last night, the GOP Debate taught me more than just about the loose stances on issues that the candidates may or may not truly hold. It taught me that there is work to be done with ourselves, our society and our country, and that I better roll up my sleeves and get ready to work for what I believe to be the type of nation I think we should have and need to have.

Until next time

Peace, Love and Pandas!

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What Kind of Leader Am I?

I was writing a guest blog post for a fellow #SAPro a few weeks ago on leadership and ever since I’ve not been able to stop contemplating on my own leadership and what it means to me.

Leadership can come in many forms. For some, leadership can be silent reflection, while others it may be verbal brainstorming. It can be seen as mentorship or dictatorship. It manifests to some as power while to others as honor. It can be good or bad. Leadership can be “do as I say” or “learn from my mistakes”. It can also be hierarchical or inclusive.

For me, leadership is a privilege that requires being both mentor and magistrate. It’s a role where, if you make a mistake you must own it to be successful. It is a position that requires balance. And it is something that most are thrust into rather than aiming for.

So amidst all this what type of leader am I? Upon reflecting…I have no clue.

I’m not by any means the strongest leader. I’m one who does make mistakes. But my heart always has the best interest in mind for those I lead. I may not always be the most articulate, but I can still get the job done. I utilize the resources and knowledge of those around me often. I find support in words of affirmation and have learned to accept harsh criticism. I wear my emotions on my sleeve and at times can be taken advantage of easily. I’m able to multitask often but need reminders just as frequently. I have high expectations of those I lead and even higher of myself. When I need a break, I NEED a break and go off-line for a day or two to recuperate. I find purpose in helping others succeed. I can have a jealous streak when I falter and another succeeds. I find comfort in seeing someone stepping up and becoming their own leader. I push and strive to help those I lead sometimes to a fault. I am very protective when I feel those I lead are being threatened.

So what type of leader am I? I suppose I’m a human leader. Imperfect and dedicated. Passionate and unbalanced. And even a little panda crazy. But upon reflecting, maybe it’s not being the strongest leader and making the right decision every time. Maybe it’s not being able to balance everything to a tee and always having a smile on your face. Perhaps, for myself, it is the growing and evolving I undergo as I encounter situations and how I example to others how to develop that makes me a leader.

Meh, food for thought :)

Until next time!

Peace, Love and Pandas!

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Great Responsibility

Over the past few months there have been a plethora of conversations surrounding race, sexuality, gender. The context has become very much majority vs. minority, privileged vs. non-privileged, oppressed vs. oppressed, the has and the has nots. In all of these conversations, there has been something that has been bugging me about all of them. I haven’t been able to put my finger on it until I read a post about a situation an alum from my HESA program, found himself in and reflecting upon:

“As I walked toward my apartment and crossed a dimly lit street, I could see a group of four white students getting ready to turn the corner while carrying on what seemed to be a light-hearted conversation. When they finally turned the corner and saw me, the conversation stopped, heads faced the ground, and one girl closed her button down shirt and clinched herself. They didn’t speak another word until I had passed them by.”

As is the nature of social media, comments and perspectives were posted in response. Reading through the conversations and posts I realized from the questions and points being made what has been bugging me about the nature of all the conversations surrounding identities and current events, etc. lately.

It not just the issues that are being discussed and whether white people are giving space to people of color, straight people giving space to the LGB community, male and female genders giving space to the transgendered community. Its the point of departure of the conversations. Rather than discussing the issues and addressing them, we get stuck in needing to justify or prove why a minority identity is feeling hurt or betrayed, rather than the issue itself.

I’ve seen in many conversations lately, and even in some of my own, where the individual with the minority identity had to “give the benefit of the doubt” to someone with a privileged identity because they “may not know”; Where a person with a privileged identity pushed bacity identity and demanded that they justify or prove why thek on a person with a minor status quo should change; Where I’ve been ask to explain why I deserve to have equal rights (i.e. marriage, blood donation, civil rights); Where a person of a minority identity is questioned for assuming actions against them were based on an identity when those who did the actions, did them based on assumptions.

I feel that these conversations are becoming more demeaning and dehumanizing over time.

Why is the majority able to treat minorities based on stereotypes and assumptions, yet minorities are required to show burden of proof before feeling hurt? Why do I need to justify my existence and identities before I’m considered for equal treatment? Why shouldn’t the status quo change?

Our conversations are centering around what “we” (people with minority identities) take away from the majority. Its as though we’re in a bartering system for rights and privileges and even just being human.

I love the iconic quote from Voltaire: ”

Courtesy of Brian D. Proffer

Courtesy of Brian D. Proffer

As a minority, its a privilege and power to have a different view and share different experiences . We have a great responsibility to educate others on our different identities, share our experiences, and advocate for ourselves and each other. But its even more so true that the majority have a responsibility to educate themselves, share their experiences and listen to others experiences and advocate for others and not to just give space to minority voices.

Tangent: And when I say to advocate, that does not mean playing ‘the devil’s advocate’ every time someone shares emotions or feelings over an issue or situation. The devil and his advocate have a place in businesses, meetings, conflict management and other such conversations. They do not have a stake hold in how a person feels or receives actions from others based on their identities. 

There’s a lot mulling in my mind right now and I’m just starting to unpack this. But felt I needed to get some of this written down to help me map out my thoughts.

Until next time

Peace, Love and Pandas!

Posted in Higher Education/Student Affairs, LGBT, Life | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment