A Charge for Myself

Damn.

Alright #ACPA15 and #NASPA15.

Its out there.

We can’t hide any more.

I can’t hide any more.

The Student Affairs field is not perfect.

Student Affairs Professionals are not perfect.

No one is perfect.

We all have different opinions. We all have different outtakes on our jobs, our field and our roles. We interpret student centeredness differently, we understand student development theory in different ways. We focus on different sub-populations of students because of our experiences and who we are.

We use our platforms in a plethora of ways for a plethora of reasons including personal and/or professional development. To support people and to tear others down. To call out the young fools or wise crazies. Some “practice what they preach” while others practice “do what I say and not what I do”.

We all have biases, we all have privilege. We are all smart people who can do stupid things. We each put people on pedestals. We each belittle one another. We self promote ourselves beyond whats needed for that extra follow and we follow others to get their follow back not to really get to know them.

We talk too much. We act too little.

If you’re reading this and in the back of your mind are saying “that’s not me” or “I don’t do that” you’re not helping yourself or being honest with yourself.

We are a community. Impacted by each others actions. Individual actions are reflective of the whole. The whole’s actions are reflected upon the individual. 

But I can’t change the whole without changing the individual. So what will I DO to make our field better?

I will do my best to be conscious of myself and the impact I have on others and the whole. I will work to better understand before talking. I will focus on listening before speaking. I will do my best to hold myself, my colleagues and those who represent me accountable to what I believe is right and to actions done. I will do better to educate myself on the going ons of society, my field, and my students. I will take on the “practice what I preach” philosophy. I will be true to who I am knowing that there are others who will not accept me. I will be awkward in person and weird but funny on my platforms. I will continue to love pandas and Tweet out baby animal photos. I will be a complicated mess of identities that even I don’t understand, but will work on to better understand. I will ask questions and be responsible to admit when I don’t know something or need help. I will make sure to limit my talking and complaining and always end every conversation with an action.

This is my charge to myself. Hold me to it.

What will YOU DO?

Until next time,

Peace, Love and Pandas!

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Reality Check

If you’ve been following me on Twitter, you already know that #ACPA15 was in Tampa this past week and my mind will be processing information, perspectives and challenges for days.

But in four days of conferencing and hundreds of millions of words spoken, in about a three second time span a mantra was spoken that hit me hard.

JLM QuoteWhile it might seem simple or obvious, for me this was something that has had me really examining myself over the past few days.

Over the past year since the close of the invigorating #ACPA14 Convention, I’ve been trying to find my place in the Student Affairs field. Looking at leaders and rockstars of SA as “who I want to be”, how I want my journey to go” and “where I want my endgame to finish”.

But perhaps one of the frustrating things this year has been that I haven’t been able to match their journeys, experiences or processes.

I’m not a strong academic, I’m very much an ambivert, I can be very emotional and I’m very Type A. I find a passion with encouraging and supporting those around me and be extremely optimistic, I can be overly cautious at times, with a sharp tongue and as you know, baby animal pics rule my life.

To me this combination hasn’t been able to  parallel let alone align with any of those individuals who inspire me. And it’s frustrating. Cause in my eyes, something has worked for those people who inspire me and I want to experience their journey and get to where they are.

But I think the above line is the needed slap in the face, shake me awake, cold water shower moment that has jerked me into realizing that it’s ok that my journey has not lined up to theirs.

Its ok to have people who inspire me to help me encourage myself along my journey. But its not ok to try to be the people who inspire me. If I can be genuine to myself and with those around me, I’ll still reach my goals in life and maybe one day be in company with those who have inspired me in my own quirky, ambivert, baby animal pic loving way and maybe that’s what will inspire another.

Until next time!

Peace, Love and Pandas!

Also, check out Jason L. Meriwether on Twitter at @jlmeriwether06 or his website: http://www.jasonlmeriwether.com

Posted in Higher Education/Student Affairs, Life | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Prepping for #ACPA15

Like many of my friends and colleagues across the Student Affairs and Higher Ed world, I am getting my presentation ready for #ACPA15.

As a first time presenter I’m a bundle of excitement, nerves, energy and anxiety. I’m trying to read all the blogs that offer tips to conference presenters and talking to many friends and colleagues for insights into their best practices.

But as I’m reading through the plethora of helpful hints and talking to friends and mentors, I’m realizing that what might be best for me is finding my own way to prep for #ACPA15. So I thought I’d share with you my journey in getting ready for my first presentation. :)

Prep 1: Being Me

I wanted to be sure that when I look at my presentation in the room I smile and remember to be me and enjoy my experience. I tried to make sure that my presentation is all me. I think I accomplished that because one of my friends who reviewed it said that the minute they looked at it they knew it was my presentation. I used fun colors, fun fonts and awesome baby animal photos, which if you know me, I’m overly dedicated to.

Prep 2: Prepping Early

I started creating my presentation back in December right after I learned I had been accepted. I worked a little on it each day over the next few months. It allowed me to be relaxed and take my time on the content and how I wanted the flow of the program to work. It also allowed me the ability to really edit like crazy these last two weeks and let my friends and mentors review it as well. As a newbie presenter I felt that I wanted to be over prepared on the presentation so that when the random quirks and problem arise I won’t be stressed over those and my presentation.

Prep 3: Know That I Am Not All Knowing

I think one of the biggest things is making sure I’m going into this as a conversation and a method of sharing information. I’m not an expert nor will I ever be on any on topic, including my presentation for this week. But I know that I am a solid facilitator and that I can facilitate a conversation where we all learn best practices, suggestions and receive mutual support in our work.

Prep 4: Technology Anticipation 

I have all Apple devices and I know that my biggest day-of worry is that my presentation won’t work because my technology won’t sync. (There are too many horror stories with Apple products to make me feel any comfort) So I may have had Michael, my parter go overboard on getting me adapters, but I have pretty much any Apple adaptor any human being might need. (So any friends or colleagues that might need to borrow an Apple adapter during #ACPA15 let me know :))

Presentations

Also, cause I know you were wondering, below are the details on my presentation if you’re free this Saturday and in Tampa:

  • Keep Rolling in Spite of the Agendas

Convention Center-Room 35

Courtesy of Brian D. Proffer

Courtesy of Brian D. Proffer

Saturday, March 7, 3:30 PM-4:30 PM

Personal and professional agendas are implemented as office, department or institutional initiatives often in higher education. however services, education and development of the students and professionals must continue in spite of these agendas. This program will take real life based scenarios to provide context in which to discuss best practices in order to prioritize and continue said education for the students and professionals. 

I will also be supporting a powerhouse of bloggers via the Twitters for their program Saturday morning:

  • #SAwrites: Professional Development Through Blogging in Student Affairs

Courtesy of Paul Gordon Brown

Courtesy of Paul Gordon Brown

Marriott Tampa Waterside – Florida Salon V

Saturday, March 7, 8:00 AM-9:00 AM

Social and digital technologies allow everyone to put their ideas out into the world. Blogging and establishing an online presence are an excellent way to engage in professional conversations and idea generation throughout the year.  In this session, a panel of bloggers at various stages of experience will share their thoughts about the what, how and why of blogging and how you can start or enhance your own writing.

#SAWrites Program Website: http://paulgordonbrown.com/2015/03/03/acpa15-naspa15-presentation-sawrites-blogging-in-student-affairs-and-higher-education/#1

Courtesy of NaQuaina Moore

Courtesy of NaQuaina Moore

Finally, a HUGE shoutout to the amazing Carly and my awesome #EMUEDLD HESA Peeps Adriana, Greta, Kelli, and NaQuaina for reviewing and helping me with everything!

Until next time! (IN THE SUN AND WARMTH OF TAMPA, FL!!)

Peace, Love and Panda!

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Introducing The PANDAS!

I’ve got some crazy deep thoughts going on in my head after last’s night’s Oscars but I thought I’d start my short series of Oscar Posts, with what I created in 5 minutes, the PANDA Awards!

So, while an always attractive Neil Patrick Harris moderately hosted the event, with more outfit changes than Cher and a few unlanded jokes that Oprah was not amused by, I thought it’d be fun to play on the Oscars and create my own and thus was born:

Picture2

The PANDA, an acronym for Positive And Niftily Delightful Associates, is something I randomly came up with during one of the Oscar commercial breaks. However it’s turned into a way for me to say thank you to those who make my engagement on my social media platforms awesome and amazing.

So I’m pleased to present the 2015 inaugural PANDA Recipients.

Best Meme-ography:

2015 Panda

Paul Gordon Brown

@paulgordonbrown

Best Inspirational

Individual:

2015 Panda

Carly Masiroff

@cmmasiroff

Best Panda

Appreciator:

2015 Panda

Britt Duron

@brittcduron

Best New Blogger:

2015 Panda

Stephanie Cascio

@stephanie_annc

Best 3rd Person

Speaker:

2015 Panda

Josh Kohnert

@joshkohnert

Best Person to Deal

With @BDProffer‘s Antics:

2015 Panda

Clyde Barnett

@cbarnettiii

Best Sidebar

#SAChatter:

2015 Panda

Niki Messmore

@nikimessmore

Best Peeps To

Randomly Chat With:

2015 Panda

Adam Leftin

@adamzleftin

2015 Panda

Kimberly White

@whiteoi

Best Cute

Animal Appreciator:

2015 Panda

Alexis Grafakos

@ajgrafakos

Best Conversationalist:

2015 Panda

Paul Porter

@drpaulporter

Best Favoriter of

@BDProffer Randomness:

2015 Panda

Mike Lynch

@mikelynch09

Best Retweeter of

@BDProffer Randomness:

2015 Panda

Frederick Smith

@fsmith827

Congratulations to all the winners! :)

Until next time!

Peace, Love and Pandas!

Posted in Higher Education/Student Affairs, Life, Technology/Social Media | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Day of Silence

Courtesy of matthewbryanpruittphotography.com

Courtesy of matthewbryanpruittphotography.com

So the other day I participated in a friend’s photo shoot they do in recognition of GLSEN’s Day of Silence which is April 17th. This initiative in which students across the country vow to take a form of silence to call attention to the silencing effect of anti-LGBT bullying and harassment in schools.

FYI, I’d never done a photo shoot before so let’s just say the photos look better than I felt taking them. lol.

Anyway, since the shoot, I’ve really been thinking about the Day of Silence campaign and its mission. I also just happen to be doing a full Glee Marathon starting with season one and watching the character Kurt progress through his character’s journey and struggling with bullying has exacerbated my thoughts and musings.

Courtesy of matthewbryanpruittphotography.com

Courtesy of matthewbryanpruittphotography.com

I’ll be honest it’s actually hard to watch some of the bullying scenes in the show. Not because I was the one being bullied, but because at times, I was the bully. I, myself, was bullied, but I also did what I had to do to survive high school and that included bullying certain peers. And on top of that, I did a lot of just standing by and letting it happen.

I was the quintessential closet case in high school. My heart went one way, my mind went another and my survival instinct told me which way to go all the time. There were a lot of times that after being an aggressor I’d shut down for a bit, trying to figure it all out and if it was worth it. However, in the end, high school still prevailed. Those were not my proudest moments, and I hurt people just as much as others hurt me.

It’s taken a lot of time, especially since coming out, to come to terms about the way I treated people in high school. I’ve come to learn that we all have those moments in time that we are not proud of. That we did things to others that we regret, all for the sake of fitting in and surviving the environment we are in at the time. But I think what makes it a journey is learning from it all and growing beyond those moments or situations to share our stories and help others learn from them.

Bullying is prevalent. We all know this. Its in high school, in college, in the workplace on social media, and even in your general community and family. But as one who has been both aggressor and victim, it needs to stop. We need to recognize that there are stories on both sides that run deep.

The unfortunate part is that there is not always an environment where everyone is able to be brave and supported to learn the stories, and survival instincts kick in and bullying occurs.

Courtesy of matthewbryanpruittphotography.com

Courtesy of matthewbryanpruittphotography.com

I don’t have any life changing answers to stopping bullying. I can only say for me that, I’m accepting myself and others more and I’m not “standing by” any more. And I’m sharing my experience. Because whether you’re the bully, the victim, or the stander by, there’s a story behind your actions and thats what will get us to learn how to overcome bullying.

To check out the other photos in this shoot visit: https://mbpruittphotography.wordpress.com/

Or to find out more information on the Day of Silence visit: http://www.dayofsilence.org/

Until next time

Peace, Love and Pandas!

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Earned and Given

Lately I’ve been struggling with giving oneself titles such as expert, leader, and change-agent.

Courtesy of Brian D. Proffer

Courtesy of Brian D. Proffer

My perspective is that titles are not only earned but also given. Calling yourself an expert, leader, change-agent etc. is easy enough. However, I’m always wary of self-given titles. I can call myself a Panda Expert, but am I really a Panda Expert? I think that whether you are considered a leader, expert etc. is dependant on your community and their experience with your work and knowledge in a given area and if they feel they can give you those titles.

I think this has been on my mind for several reasons including the multitude of resumes that I am reviewing for friends and because I’ve been looking at colleagues’ bios and descriptions of themselves on their social media platforms to help me improve my own. But perhaps the most significant reason why this has been on my mind is probably from my final days at my previous institution.

As my final days loomed closer to my departure at my last institution, I had many colleagues come to say good bye. There were chats, coffee, hugs, some tears and even cupcakes decorated as Pandas :). But the most impactful thing they sent me off with was the honor of referring to me as a few positive and impactful identities and titles that I always aspired to, but never wanted to refer to myself as. I always felt that self-identifying as them seemed empty to me. During my many conversations, and as these titles came up, it was such a validation of me as a professional and put my work into a purposeful context.

Now, I still don’t refer to myself as those titles or identities. But I also know that I am reaching my aspirations. My friends and colleagues do see those qualities and traits in me that I aspire to, so I feel that I don’t have to announce it to the world.

I’ll be honest, titles such as leader, expert, change-agent, etc. can look nice and be really impressive. But the content and practice is what will really earn you the titles. And if you are truly an expert or leader or change agent or whatever else, you won’t have to say it. Everyone will already know it by your actions and work.

So don’t focus so much on the titles you give yourself to impress and convince everyone that you are an expert, change-agent, or leader. Put your focus on being you and the best professional and person you can be, and people will know you are a leader, expert, etc. without you having to tell them.

Until next time,

Peace, Love and Pandas!

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One Step Further

I was trolling Twitter at 5:00 AM this morning when I came across some conversations over a very thought provoking SACollective Post by Jerad Green, @jeradgreen494, titled “Why I Feel White People Shouldn’t Run Multicultural Affairs”. And it got me thinking a lot about offices and centers dealing with marginalized populations and of course specifically multicultural offices.

Jerad makes some spot on points. One was the benefit of having like-identified leaders in key positions. For example, LGBTQIA Centers need a LGBTQIA identifying Director or a Women’s Center is best led when a female is the director. He also makes a great point in addressing the White Ally vs the White Savior, and I know many colleagues who are struggling to support but not triumph for people of color and being an ally rather than a savior.

However, in order to fully understand the conversation and points brought forth in the post, I needed to reframe the context the post was made in. And it simply came down to the jargon, definition and interpretation used for these types of offices.

For me, to really embrace the information and insights of my colleague, I needed to take the specifics out of the multicultural context and pin them next to Multicultural Affairs for a second and only keep the key concept presented; The philosophy that to best lead Multicultural Affairs, one must be able to identify with a marginalized population in order to best understand therefore educate on the intersectionality of identities and cultures and how to balance the voices of all into a comprehensive conversation and dialogue. 

As I was musing over this philosophy and the post, I realized that part of the disconnect for me was not understanding the definition and interpretation of “multiculturalism” by the author or institution. Let’s be honest, there is no singular definition, interpretation or practice of multicultural affairs. It has the ability to become a vast and varied term. So being able to replace the pinned situations and specific comments into a multicultural affairs area with racial issues as a significant component of its functions and mission, I was able to see the entire post from a more comprehensive position.

In line with this, I also thought about the offices that we’ve created in our field. We have LGBTQIA offices, women’s centers, Hispanic services, disability services, veteran services and even some have religious support offices and staff. But there are very few offices specifically dedicated to black students on our campuses. To me it then is understandable therefore that many of the issues, concerns and services are shifted to the overarching Diversity or Multicultural Offices. Thusly shifting the definition and interpretation of these offices and missions. Which leads to understanding why there is a conversation on whether whites have the ability to lead Multicultural Affairs, basing the criteria only on race and not another cultural identity they may have that provides them a similar understanding of being a marginalized population.

For myself, I tend to interpret Multicultural Affairs as not focusing on one identity and how it intersects and meshes with all other cultures and identities, but how a myriad of cultures and identities interact and co-exist in a space and what, how and when the relationships and connections move between them all. Also my interpretation of Multicultural Affairs works with how each of these offices which works with marginalized populations collaborate, educate and work together.

So, bringing it back around to Jerad’s post, I think that he hit on a topic that not only pushes out issues that need to be discussed and deals with leadership, privilege, and race but also what offices we choose to create and house on our campuses, how we define and interpret offices such as Multicultural Affairs, and our jargon that we use which leads to identifying who the privileged are and who are more inclined and prepared to lead specific offices and departments.

Just my thoughts on a very thought provoking post.

Until next time!

Peace, Love and Pandas!

Posted in Higher Education/Student Affairs | Tagged , | 3 Comments