Around the Theory in 80 Days (#ATTI80)

So I’ve struggled with theory. That’s no secret. But a goal for this summer is to try to get beyond my struggle. So I’m going to share my processing of theory with you.

Now, my plan is for every couple of days to take a theory, a model, a concept, etc. that I believe will help me in my work and dissect it. From today until August 12 (which is my “summer” and exactly 80 days [haha…get it?]) we’re going to get our Jules Verne on with Student Affairs Theory. Hopefully this will  help reaffirm my understanding of it but to also process the previous year and prepare for the upcoming one.

To kick it off, I started with Kolb’s Theory of Experiential Learning and their Learning Style Model. I selected this one because our office has been struggling with truly understanding the increasingly vast variety of learning styles of our students and how best to engage them and retain their engagement.

Now, a bit of history always helps for context. Kolb’s Theory was grounded from the academic point of view while they served as a faculty member at Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the learning styles of their students. They first published their theory and model in 1984. And while it has “in the classroom” origins, it has been successfully applied throughout higher education, beyond the classroom.

Now, for myself, it helped to break it down to the very basic foundations. And after reading through several books and journal articles I broadly defined the styles and drew a simple picture to help me remember them.


I learn best with colors and pictures so please feel free to chuckle at my artwork


Accomodator: Gut Instinct Doer (Movie Clapboard)

Diverger: Big Picture/Long Term Planner (Picture)

Converger: Behind the Scenes Worker (Prescription Logo)

Assimilator: Mapper (Treasure Map)

After doing my drawing and laying it all out, I sat back. Almost instantly, I saw the students I worked with this past year falling into learning styles. They each had varying degrees of all four styles, but also had a primary style I could link them to.

After sitting with this, I started to see where the struggle came from. My style of learning is completely Accomodator. I think if I had to pick, I’d place our entire staff into the Accomodator style, which made sense because we struggled the most with the Assimilator learning style this year. Much of our professional development, processes and training placates to the outgoing, people person, immediate action style. Many of our communication styles and teaching styles came from an Accomodator style for Accomodator styler learners. (My premise is that we teach others in ways we are familiar.) Further more, I saw the personalities of each of the students and the conversations I had with them throughout the year made more sense in how I learned about them and their interests.

Now, seeing and understanding this definitely helps me comprehend how and what we need to do in order to work better with our students, but it also helps me understand that we can’t expect them to change learnings styles.  Now, it is contested by several theorists whether or nor students can change learning styles. However, regardless, we need to do what we can to meet them and their learning style.

The primary implication for our office is to be more conscious and purposeful to balance out the workshops and activities for professional development, training, etc., between the various learning styles. Additionally, I need to be better ready, on an individual basis, to advise a student based on their style.

This may be rudimentary but it’s always nice for the reminder. And already I’m learning that sometimes its not the complexity of theories that makes them useful but their foundations and basics that truly is what helps and is useful. 

Until next time!

Peace, Love and Panda!

P.S. Does anyone know where one can get more Expo Marker colors beyond Red, Blue, Green and Black?😀



Evans, Nancy J., et al. (2010). Chapter eight: Kolb’s theory of experiential learning. Student development in college: theory, research and practice (ed. 2, pp.136-152). San Fransisco: Jossey-Bass.

Kolb, D. A. (1984). Experiential learning: Experience as the source of learning and development (Vol. 1). Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

McLeod, S. A. (2013). Kolb – Learning Styles. Retrieved from


Posted in Higher Education/Student Affairs | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lived Experiences

Its hard to codify lived experiences. And sometimes I struggle with how we use and acknowledge lived experiences be it the term or an actual lived experience.

We hear the term “lived experience” often, especially in the Student Affairs field. So what exactly is it? I dug back into my undergrad days to one of my honors courses where we had to study philosophers and sociologists and pulled this from a text by Wilhelm Dilthey, a German sociologist, psychologist, and philosopher:

“…term for what is immediately given to individual consciousness regarding one’s own thought and feeling. It can also be used for the experience which orients a person’s self-conception and around which an individual life organizes itself. Through lived experience, the meaning of a particular life history unfolds. We can understand society as our world on the basis of our lived experience of the forces that move society.”

Wilhelm Dilthey

Now, there have been variations on the appropriate use of lived experiences. Some indicate that it refers to all individuals and their experiences which form their self-concepts. Other definitions and uses indicate that only minority or disadvantaged identities can have lived experiences.

For me, I approach lived experiences from the understanding that all individuals have lived experiences that form an individual’s self-concept.

With that premise, I struggle with our Student Affairs Facebook Group. We submit lived experiences and talk about them, but we don’t give time to understand them. And many times we’re so intent on sharing our individual lived experiences we can’t hear our colleagues and friends’ lived experiences.

To hear someone’s lived experience is just that. Listen purposefully and without comment regardless who’s sharing and acknowledge their journey and experiences that have formed their self-concept to that moment in time.

To understand someone’s lived experience means that it is in conflict or agreement with one of our individual lived experiences and we have to work through that to come to a new self-concept. That takes time and rarely can we have purposeful responses within moments of hearing another person’s lived experience.

Self-concepts change. The self-concept I had when I graduated college almost 10 years ago is vastly different than my current self-concept. But I had to hear and process lived experiences of those similar and vastly different from me to bring me to my current self-concept.

I had to listen to my straight family members’ self-concepts of sexual orientation. I had to understand both my white and Asian friends’ self-concepts in order to come to grasp with my self-proclaimed conflicted Asian identity. I had to hear my colleagues and superiors’ views of what it is to be a Student Affairs Professional before I could mold my own image.

I struggled with this. I wanted to be right. And as the person coming out or struggling as an adopted Asian raised by white parents I wanted to be the voice that was right and educated others and to bring awareness to my struggles. But I realized that I couldn’t effectively share my lived experiences without understanding the other’s lived experiences. If I didn’t stop to hear and understand, I wouldn’t know how to express my own experiences and have a purposeful and compassionate exchange.

It’s impossible for us, as humans, to not be hurt or upset at times from someone’s lived experience that conflicts our own. But if we really want to make change for the better for the world, our field, ourselves and each other we have to sit with one anothers’ lived experiences and acknowledge them and not dismiss them.

In short: Facebook posts shouldn’t blow up within seconds. Why do we not take our own advice and sit with what’s been shared and purposefully process? Sometimes I think we are too quick to act; not because we truly understand and give dialogue to the conversation or education, but rather we are too busy showing that we are allies and the “perfect” professional and we miss the point of authentically engaging with one another.

I’m not perfect at this, and no one is, but I process and learn best when I write and I hope that you process with me and help make our work with both our students and each other the most inspiring and compassionate it can be.

Until next time

Peace, Love and Pandas!


Special Thanks to Carly Masiroff (@cmmasiroff ) and Myra Lumpkins (@MySunshine2U ) who were awesome editors for this post and helping me out with it!



“lived experience.” The Blackwell Dictionary of Western Philosophy. BUNNIN, NICHOLAS and JIYUAN YU (eds). Blackwell Publishing, 2004. Blackwell Reference Online. 12 May 2016 <;



Posted in Higher Education/Student Affairs, Life | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Small Moments

“Looking back, I realize that it wasn’t about the events themselves that we were planning and putting on, but about the experiences and processes we went through.”

We all have those moments during the year when we wonder if what we are saying to our students is being picked up. We each question if all the paperwork and politics is worth the stress. We wonder if all our heart, that we put into our work and our students, is being felt.

I am no exception from that. And for me, my work, heart and efforts were validated last week during the UAB End-of-Year Banquet.

As with every banquet there was food, music, and speeches. Thanks were spoken and acknowledgements given. But it was during one of the director’s speech that gave me the reminder that my efforts have not been in vain and that though it may not seem as if the students may be catching everything we throw at them but they truly do understand.

The above quote was spoken by one of the directors I advise, and it completely validated a long year of hard heartfelt work. I mean, the feels I got drew a tear!

But its simple quick moments like that which truly validate our work. Regardless of the campus politics, mistakes made, struggles in the field, etc. we can be confident that we are doing good work!

So, I hope that this serves as a reminder that even though students and colleagues may not often acknowledge the work, the efforts or the heart, it’s being received. And to find comfort and fuel in those small moments as the one I had the privilege of having last week.  And I’ll be honest, those last longer that the awards or plaques that don many people’s offices.

And before I close out this quick blog, I want to say tgiphyhank you to all of you who read my blog, to my #SAChat community who have let me talk you’re ear off, who have shown me patience and understanding when I ask questions, who have taught me something new or have allowed me to cry on your shoulder, and who have invited me to share my journey with you this past year!

Until next time,

Peace, Love and Pandas!

Posted in Higher Education/Student Affairs, Life | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

End of Year #SAReflection

I could be getting a head start on some financial stuff for work, but I came in early this morning to blog.

The school year is almost over, and as we come into the final stretch of classes, events, programs, and even academic journeys here at Michigan State, I take pause this morning to reflect for a moment.

Reflecting upon my experiences this year, I find many times, we’re a field of contradictions.

As Student Affairs professionals, we are problem solvers who cannot solve our own issues. We are intuitive advisers and habitual helpers who forget that help and advising is a 2-way street. We are both invasive and evasive colleagues and friends. For many of us it’s almost impossible not to step in when action needs to be taken but only minimal action in order to “be legitimate”. We despise the politics that we all seem to love to play. We are territorial over our collaborations. We’re intolerantly tolerant. We’re bullied bullies. We are imperfect people in a field that for some reason demands perfection.

Over the last few months on multiple platforms and forums, I’ve seen good intentions tossed aside for political gain. I’ve seen those asking for help turned down. I’ve seen those challenging others be considered agitators. I’ve witnessed the annihilation of colleagues who have had opposite views than mainstream field. We have become so entrenched in being right and inclusive that we’ve forgotten how to listen and understand. (How have we gotten to this point? I have no clue, but that’s no doubt a future post.)

We advise our students to listen and learn. We ask them to keep an open mind. We build spaces for discussions and learning regardless if we agree or not of the opinions being shared. We challenge and support them. We take the journey with them.

We don’t seem to do the same with each other.

Now, I don’t have the answer to any of this. And I am just at fault of many of these as everyone else is. All I can do is work towards doing and being better. To listen more and not react so quickly. To understand my experiences are not the same as another’s and therefore should not judge them. That my education and childhood gave me different contexts than another person. That I might have to lead some by the hand through things. That I am not “you” and therefore have no right to dictate what you believe or don’t believe. We don’t have to believe the same thing to be good Student Affairs professionals. (I mean I am NOT a fan of the “theory is everything” mind frame but you all still like me…I think).

Our students are not all the same, we shouldn’t be the same either.

I will make mistakes but hopefully will be able to survive the claws of Student Affairs which seem to be becoming unforgiving more often than not.

Student Affairs is my family. In one way or another it has always been and always will be a part of me and my journey whether as student or professional. So I might as well face the good the bad and the ugly and see what I can offer to help out the field. And for me, reflection is the first step.

Until next time!

Peace, Love and Pandas!

Posted in Higher Education/Student Affairs, Life | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


image1“Why Pandas?”

“Where did this love of pandas begin?”

For the past few months these questions have been popping up more frequently in my conversations.

Some have thought it’s because I’m trying to enforce my Asian-ness.

Others have thought its because my personality is similar to the panda.

And still others have thought its because I love Panda Express.

Though some of these are true, the real reason is actually none of these. Well, not consciously anyways.

My beautiful picture

Me and my panda with my little brother Phil and his koala

The reason why I love pandas so much comes from my childhood. It all can be traced back to one of my very first stuffed animals, which was…(drum roll, please)…a PANDA!

Instead of an imaginary friend, I had my stuffed panda, and never went anywhere without him. And I mean  was NEVER without him. He was my forever companion.

Through thick and thin he been by my side. He has watched over me as I grew up and learned the truth about Santa, got my first kiss by both girl and boy, went through puberty and struggled with my sexuality. He quietly supported me through my high school journey and tumultuous college days. He was even silently close by, with a protective eye, after I came out after college and went into a dangerous and self-destructive downward spiral. He was also there when I got my life together, met Michael, when I graduated from Eastern Michigan with my Masters, and watched as I celebrated getting my most recent position at Michigan State.

My beautiful picture

Sheriff Brian and Deputy Panda ready to take on the world!

And through all that, ever since I first met my little friend, my love for pandas has grown and hence the adoration for the cutest, funniest and awesomeness animal on the planet!

Now, after all of this, you must be wondering…“What is his name?”  Well, his name came about so randomly, but with such intention, I am still surprised by my innate intuition.


Christmas in high school with my buddy

His name is Number One Diamond.

It is derived from Number One Dime, after the most prized possession of the main character from one of my favorite TV shows when I was growing up. Now, somehow, in my innocent youthful mind, I must have made the same correlation as to the importance of this stuffed panda bear as that character did with his coin.

Now, I had a minor speech impediment when I was younger and I kept saying “diamond” instead of “dime” and it just seemed to stick. (Granted, I think it was also partly because I thought ‘diamond’ was more fun to say than ‘dime’. I mean diamond does have more syllables. LOL). But regardless, Number One Diamond became his name.


Last night with my bud taking a selfie for today’s post

Now, for the first person to Tweet me the name of the AWESOME 80s show Number One Dime was featured on I’ll give you a shout out!:)

But there you have it. A little more Brian Fun Fact and the story of how the panda love began. All from my Number One Diamond!:)

Until next time!

Peace, Love and PANDAS!

Posted in Life | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Airtime Perspective

It was 6:30 PM and the flight into Chicago was just starting its decent into O’Hare, where I would make my connecting flight to take me home to the final leg of my #ACPA16 trip home to Lansing.

Chicago 1

Courtesy of

Having a window seat, I watched as the blur of Chicago began to get brighter. We gradually dropped in altitude and the blur began to take the shapes of street lamps, yard lights and cars. Having this birds eye view, I watched the lights moving, coming and going, turning on and off. It had a pulse of its own. A living city of lights. Some moving, some standing still, and others flickering on and off or changing colors.

And as many of you know, being in a post-ACPA reflection mode, the depth of contemplation is deep. And on this flight, it was no different. The scene laid out below made me think of Student Affairs, Higher Education, society and life in general.


Courtesy of

We are always in the midst of the bustle and the hustle of daily work, conferencing, and socializing. Working or dealing (however you look at it) with family, friends, students and supervisors. So much so, that many times, we don’t always see the pulse that we each individually make on the larger body.

We forget to acknowledge that everyone plays a part in their own way and to not to ridicule or shame others for how they decide to play their part.

For some it’s the sustainability of being still and strong pillars staying in one place. For others it’s moving and grooving from one location to another sharing and gathering knowledge. Meanwhile others are going from “light” to “light” and helping to ensure each shines bright.

Chicago 3

courtesy of

We all have crashes, intentionally and unintentionally. And many will stop by crashes that happen to repair harm and restore the flow and pulse of the “traffic”. However, there are others who will reroute around a crash because there is already help at the scene and still others who will reroute to ensure they make it to their final destination on time.

But in the end we’re all part of the pulse. Each of us has value and purpose whether or not we see it and whether or not others see it.

For me, I believe that while mistakes, harm and accidents happen, they happen for a reason. In most cases, I think without harm or mistakes there is no learning. And none of us are perfect and will all cause crashes and accidents. That’s the humbling part of being human and the only perfect thing about us: our imperfections.

But let us understand that regardless the accident or harm, we are always still part of the pulse…the pulse of the field, society and the world.

Chicago 4

Courtesy of

Forgiving, learning and moving on is the only way to advance in life, as a professional and as a person because whether you want to be or not, your individual self is part of the greater whole.


So amidst the passion, the bustle and the business of life and work, let us not forget that none of us are above reproach. None of us are perfect and that everything we do is a part of the larger pulse of the field, the world and life and that everything that happens for a reason in order to keep the pulse of the field, the world and life going.

Just some nighttime flying musings for today.:)

Until next time

Peace, Love and Pandas!

Posted in Higher Education/Student Affairs, Life | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


IMG_3186Bonjour de montréal!

Hello from Montreal!

Its been another whirlwind convention, and on this final day, I’ve gone for my morning walk to the Bagel Express to get my coffee and croissant and found a colorful corner to reflect for a few moments.

This entire convention has been an eye opening experience. From the chuckle of forgiveness by my taxi driver when I got nervous and spoke in Spanish to catching up with some amazing student affairs people to walking around the city. It has been amazing and a reminder that experiences and learning never stop.

But yesterday, while walking around the city, I realized what could sum up this entire convention for me. And all in a  single word, which fittingly is partially derived from French: juxtaposed.

Walking around the city, you find the gorgeous history of the city in its amazingly preserved stone buildings, which stand side by side the modern architecture of glass and steel. You can soak in the regal muted tones  of stone, brick and mortar alongside the brilliant colors of the rainbow accenting the streets and buildings. But it all comes together in what seems to be a harmonious world of tradition and newness, history and dreams for the future.

And for me this contrasting side continued inside the Palais des congrès de montréal, the location of #ACPA16. While listening to the conversations, speakers and presentations a theme of a similar juxtaposition became a theme I noticed. Whether it be:

Teaching others with self-teaching

Theory with practice

Not being able to trust the job search in order to secure a job

Who we are physically and digitally

Quantifying our qualities

Follow leading

Credentials and degrees with experience

Even the Critical Issues Debates hosted by, which were fantastic, seemed to point to the juxtaposition of ideals and practices we, as Student Affairs practitioners hold to.


Courtesy of

And these are only a few of them that I noticed and have reflected upon over the past few days.

But if there’s a secondary theme to #ACPA16 that I could come to, it would be that this contrast was ok and even great at times.

For me, this contrasting is what makes our field so unique in many ways. The juxtaposition we find ourselves in many times with policies, procedures, best practice, colleagues, politics, etc., along with what seems to be an innate heightened sense of awareness is what gets us to address issues. It continues pushing us and driving us to care, to return to our offices and to research and experience. It reminds us that each journey is different and unique and that one path does not fit all.

IMG_3135The key though, is to step up and raise our voices. To say the unpleasantries to speak your truth and be willing to talk about these contrasts and our juxtaposed journeys through life and our profession in whatever way and/or platform you feel comfortable with so that we can continue improving, understanding and developing ourselves and our students to the best of our ability.

This is where I’m at so far with my reflecting and processing of all that has taken place over the last few days at #ACPA16. But since I had time (and my croissant and coffee) thought I’d share with you where I currently was with my processing.

If you were at #ACPA16 I hope you had a great time, learned lots and networked like a fiend, and if not, I hope you followed on the backchannel! And I  hope to see you next year in Columbus at #ACPA17!!

Until next time!

Peace, Love and Pandas!


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