Breakin’ It Down

Higher education silos have been frequently coming up a lot in my life, be it my own institution, conversations on Twitter,or even with some of my BFFs in the profession. We all recognize that they are there. I’ve even written a few posts on the problem of silos and why we have them. But now it’s time for me to be proactive, put my money where my mouth is, and help rid us of these silos. So, I’ve decided to write a few practices that I’ve gather to build bridges, tear down walls and create community. I am not perfect at any one of these, but I try my best to follow these tips and suggestions (like in everything I have my good days and bad days). So hopefully you’ll be able to infuse at least one if not more of these following practices.

Be a Facilitator, Not a Gatekeeper

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Courtesy of

This a direct quote from @TomKrieglstein and his #ACPA14 Pecha Kucha Talk. I think that this BEST describes what we should be doing all the time, but don’t. We make sure our individual personal and professional network is growing and staying up to date, but how often do we help others build their network? Do we always ensure that we are making introductions of mutual friends, ensuring that our network(s) is networking with each other and within itself especially on our own individual campuses?


Be Authentic

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Courtesy of

@CrigBididman writes it best in a post on his blog. Be authentic and be you. Be vulnerable with yourself. Be honest about who you are, your accomplishments and your faults. Humbly accept praise you receive and be accountable for when you make mistakes or poor decisions. Over thinking and saying/doing what everyone wants you to say or do doesn’t create a true substantive bond between yourself and your colleagues. And let’s be honest, we know it. We can always tell when someone is “schmoozing and cruising” or having a real conversation, and we should be having the real conversations. Especially with our co-workers and collaborators.


Be Gracious

Courtesy of Brian D. Proffer
Courtesy of Brian D. Proffer

Receive and give feedback, advice and ideas graciously. I think that @AmyLJorgensen put it best in her 2014 #HEWebMI presentation that “Every idea is shit…because its all fertilizer to grow other ideas”. None of us are experts in Student Affairs or Higher Education. We are in a field of all-hands-on-deck and should help one another foster and grow ideas to better the experiences of the students, staff, faculty, alumni and administrators. There is no idea that is perfect but every idea can lead to another which can lead to another to a potential solution to a situation or  turn into a program.


Don’t Just Collaborate

Courtesy of Brian D. Proffer
Courtesy of Brian D. Proffer

Over the past year in my current position, my experiences have confirmed that collaboration is always a great way to build bridges and create great programs and initiatives, however, we shouldn’t just allow bridges to be built when collaborating. Make time to reach out to offices and departments who program or are low staffed and set aside time to help them, whether or not it benefits you directly. Get to know the work they do so you can understand them. Be selfless and willing to show that you respect them and their time and talents they offer to the institution. It helps to build a bond and deeper relationship with your colleagues


Use Your Village

Remember that all higher education professionals, faculty and administrators are all here to see that students learn, grow, mature and become pro-active and positive citizens of an ever-changing world. You, as an individual, cannot think of nor know everything, but when you bring together perspectives, ideas, work, and research from other, it  can do several things. It can  validate your peers’ work and efforts, provide a larger pool of resources to utilize as well as provide you the ability to understand what other colleagues are working on in the field and build from their work. Additionally, your “village” should not be limited to Student Affairs professionals or higher educational administrators.It should be anyone who is able to help you serve the students, be it Student Affairs professionals, web developers, motivational speakers, administrative assistants, etc.


And to show that I try to practice what I preach, I set this post up to example some of the practices being proposed:

  • Be a Facilitator, Not a Gatekeeper:It’s my hope that you will find these awesome people on social media or at a future conference and connect with them. They are some of the most insightful and pro-active professionals I have had the privilege of learning from.
  • Be Authentic: I’ve tried to be honest about some of my strengths and weaknesses, as I provided examples and my views.
  • Be Gracious: It was my aim, as in most of my posts, that I offer up my ideas and collected wisdom and provided you a post that is not egotistical but rather as something to ignite action and engagement.
  • Use Your Village: I’ve pulled together my “village” of people from several platforms and conferences to show that being able to provide wisdom for our field doesn’t have to come from #SAPros. The individuals in my post today are from my networks of higher education web professionals, Student Affairs professionals, Student Affairs graduate students, and insights from myself. Cause let’s face it, especially without the insights of my friends and colleagues, this post would have been a snooze fest.
  • Unfortunately I was not able to example in this post how to help and support selfishly, but I think that is a pretty obvious practice that we all can understand and infuse into our lives quite easily.

I hope you try one or two of these out and really infuse them into your work at your institution and in your professional life and work and hopefully take the first step to bring down the silos that are plaguing our institutions and preventing the good work we all wish to do.

Until next time

Peace, Love and Pandas!



Published by Brian

I am currently the Assistant Director of Student Life for Registered Student Organizations and Late-Night Programming at Michigan State University. After earning my B.A. from the University of Michigan-Flint, I entered the Student Affairs profession. After a few years in the field, I returned to school and earned my M.A. in Educational Leadership-Higher Education Student Affairs from Eastern Michigan University. In my spare time I blog about my thoughts and musings on current issues in higher education, student affairs, digital worlds, identity development and general life inspirations and observations. I also volunteer a lot for my fraternity and multiple regional and national professional associations.

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