Being a Servant Leader within Student Affairs

March 31, 2014

image

Last night I had the opportunity to spend time at the ACPA awards reception with a former student who is now an accomplished colleague and a close friend. Opportunities like this inspire me and make me further appreciate the joys of being a Student Affairs professional.

At the convention we heard from both Kohl Crecelius and Erik Qualman about making a positive impact upon others and leaving a legacy. That is the heart of what it means to be a Student Affairs professional and a servant leader. We all have the opportunity to impact people in many life-changing ways. I, like most of you, want to serve others by enabling them to be stronger, more prepared, and to be able to thrive both personally and professionally. Furthermore, I want to influence others to be servant leaders.

Use the time at the convention to connect with others and found how they serve their employees, their institution, their students, and their communities. What are new and innovative ways they are serving others? In kind, share your own successes and even your frustrations and gain some feedback on how you can do better (and more!)

As you explore your own journey as a Student Affairs professional and servant leader, please let me know how I can help you. I am always willing to listen, lend advice, and collaborate.


ACPA Convention Professional Development Scavenger Hunt

March 23, 2014

ACPA Professional Development

The upcoming ACPA Convention allows each of us to connect and learn from one another in very impactful ways. Each of us can create our own customized convention experience, but sometimes this can be haphazard and without little or any thought behind how we determine what to do while there. I would like to suggest that you follow a professional development “scavenger hunt” to get the most out of your convention experience. By following this scavenger hunt, you will be able have some concrete goals going into the convention that can further develop your career rather than simply catching up with old friends and attending interesting sessions.

1. Attend a technology-related session and jot down ideas of how you can incorporate session lessons into your department.

2. Meet a new colleague from a different region of the country and make plans to check in on each other throughout the year via phone, email, or social media.

3. Attend a session in an area or topic unrelated to your department and attempt to collaborate with colleagues from that area when you return to campus related to the information you learned.

4. Lend some help by signing up to volunteer for one of various functional areas throughout the convention.

5. Go to a Commission meeting and plan to participate regularly in their activities and discussions throughout the year.

6. Purchase a book from the available publisher on the convention floor and share its content when returning to campus.

7. Meet a younger colleague and offer to mentor them with your experience.

8. Tweet from a session to share its content with your followers and those who are not at the convention.

9. Talk to at least one of the session presenters and offer to collaborate on a project together.

10. Take random brainstorming notes to prepare for presenting a session for next year’s convention.

Good luck with the professional development scavenger hunt. Enjoy your convention experience!


Why Your Programming Sucks! (And What To Do About It)

February 10, 2014

sucks_stampCampus programming is part art and part science mixed with some luck. While programming efforts vary from institution to institution, there’s no denying that many veteran student affairs professionals agree that attracting the attention (and attendance) of college students has become increasingly difficult. With the advent of Facebook, Netflix, smart phones, and an ever growing catalog of video games and entertainment options, campus programming can easily be perceived as passé by someone out of the realm of Student Life.

Please understand that I myself am a programming “purist” and wholeheartedly believe that student programming efforts add to the extracurricular personal development of our students. However, programming without a strategic plan can lead to poor results, including a waste of time, resources, and the creation of disillusioned staffers and students alike. Having over 20 years of experience in campus programming, I would like to share some thoughts on why your programming sucks and what to do about it:

1. Your Programming is a Mainly a Means to an End: If your activities are simply there because it’s required of you, you’re probably not putting your heart and soul into program development. This is going to be obvious as you won’t be inspiring your staff or your students into putting forth innovative and quality work. If you don’t want to be there, your students certainly won’t want to be there either (i.e., circular causality). Furthermore, if you are programming simply for programming’s sake without any formal goals or student learning outcomes in mind, there’s a good chance your programming will become stale because there’s nothing to challenge you to push past mediocrity.

Resolve: Whether you’re an RA, hall coordinator, assistant director of student activities, or director of a student affairs department, if you find programming a chore and something you have to do for the paycheck, it’s time to refocus and recharge or simply get out. You can refocus by finding out what colleagues are doing across the country. Suggestions include subscribing to Student Affairs blogs, reading tweets from other college and university departments, participating in webinars, and attending regional and national conferences. Get out of your own department and find other colleagues at your institution who inspire you and achieve great results with their own programs. Additionally, ASK FOR HELP if you find yourself struggling.

2. You Concentrate Solely on Attendance: While numbers are certainly good, they shouldn’t be the sole reason for why you program. Rather than focusing on worthwhile activities that students will appreciate and find worth their time, programmers can easily fall into the trap of offering gimmicks and prizes to attract attendees. Of course pizza, gift cards, and t-shirts are awesome, but don’t create a situation in which students only come to grab the free stuff and bolt.

Resolve: Refer to your department and university’s mission and vision when developing your programs for the semester and year. Determine the purpose behind your programming and plan accordingly. If success is only determined by numbers at your institution, I challenge you to illustrate the student learning outcomes you achieve to your superiors rather than following status quo. It is hard to argue against programs that foster student development and education. (It’s even better if you can do this without spending a lot of money to achieve those results!)

3. Your Marketing is Lacking: Throwing up a few flyers and sending out an email and a tweet isn’t going to cut it. Students are inundated with loads of information and a lackluster advertising effort will go unnoticed. In large part, the bulk of students don’t care about what you’re doing. Furthermore, if they don’t see your message, they can’t make plans to attend.

Resolve: For all intents and purposes, your marketing campaign should be as well planned as the program itself. Try to make the marketing fun as well. A message that sets itself apart from all of the other “noise” of departments hawking their events will have a better chance of getting noticed. Don’t simply use one avenue of marketing, such as only using Facebook, but use all of the tools you have, including social media, email, handwritten personal invites, flyers, announcements at organization meetings, sidewalk chalk, and even guerilla marketing techniques.

4. You’re Trying Too Hard or Not Trying Hard Enough: We’re not going to compete with the likes of Playstation, Netflix, and off-campus parties so don’t try to. You’ll quickly burn yourself out on multiple half-assed programs that little if nobody will attend. On the other hand, if you’re hosting programs that you yourself wouldn’t want to attend, why would you think your students would come? Programming takes creativity, and most importantly, hard work.

Resolve: Sometimes simple can be better. In large part, students want the opportunity to interact with one another and do something fun. If you can add in some education in there, all the better. Yet, you can’t just throw a pizza in the study lounge and expect 100 people to show up. Float some ideas by a bunch of students prior to rolling out a program. You’ll get a quick sense whether or not an idea is decent or not. Also, consider giving some program types a rest while bringing old ones back that haven’t been done in awhile. What’s new is old, and what’s old is new.

Good coordinated and creative programming is challenging, but should be fun for you, your staff, and your students. Spend the time to develop a programming and marketing plan to ensure better success. And if something doesn’t work, get rid of it. Don’t hang onto traditions just because that’s the way it’s always been done. Programming needs to stay fresh, innovative, and fun.

For further information regarding programming, I encourage you to read Developing Activities (Free 650+ Activities Handout) as well as What is Your Programming GPA? (***free handout***)


Why Your Spring Training is Largely Ineffective

January 15, 2014

Why Your Spring Training is Largely Ineffective

Now is the time Student Life staffers are looking for advice and resources regarding spring training for student employees and student leaders. Each college and university has its own tradition regarding how they provide training at the beginning of the spring semester whether its for resident advisors, orientation leaders, student government representatives, and other student leaders. The philosophy behind that training and how its implemented can be very different from institution to institution. In some cases the results of spring training can be largely ineffective.

Here are some questions to consider and strategies to implement as you assess your own spring training program:

Do You Have Loosely Defined Learning Outcomes? What is the purpose of your training? What is it that you want your students to learn as a result of attending your training? Do you have any formal or informal learning assessments to implement during and after your training? Define what you want your students to learn and create your training to teach that knowledge. Don’t simply present random topics loosely related to your department and hope that your students will learn something from it. Create short and simple surveys, quizzes, and / or require a demonstration of some sort so you can determine if they learned what you wanted them to learn.

Are You Are Training for Training’s Sake? Is your training strategically created or are you simply following tradition of what was done in the past? Take stock in the value of your current training practices and assess whether or not you need to need to modify it. I don’t like to waste people’s time, and I don’t like my time wasted. With that being said, create something that is worth everyone’s time. Don’t simply bring students and / or staff back early just for the sake of bringing them back early and force lackluster training content. Also, don’t outsource all of your sessions to guest speakers from across campus who may not add real value to your training just to get a training schedule together.

Is Your Training Actually “Training” At All? Are you scrambling to find activities just to fill the schedule? Is your schedule mostly filled with social rather than educational activities? What would happen if you didn’t have your spring training altogether? Would it truly be missed and have a negative impact on your semester? Have sessions that are impactful, memorable, and directly relate to your daily “business.” Understand that fun activities and team bonding are appropriate as a part of training, but they should not constitute your entire schedule.

*** Photo courtesy of Tomasz Szkopiñski


50 Leadership Resolutions for Student Life Professionals

January 2, 2014

list of resolutions on blackboard with three blank, numbered sticky notes

As we begin a new year, it is good to reflect back on what we have accomplished while also examining areas we can improve upon going forward. Here are thoughts to consider as you develop your own resolutions related to your work in Student Affairs.

  1. Modesty is key; be humble.
  2. Open your mind and listen more.
  3. Seek out feedback while implementing changes.
  4. Engage in positive thought for encouragement.
  5. Help yourself by helping others succeed.
  6. Forward thinking encourages positive change.
  7. Embrace and foster a shared vision.
  8. Nothing is impossible when you put trust in yourself and others.
  9. Recognize the value and talent in quality staff.
  10. Make data-driven decisions.
  11. Self-motivate to stimulate creativity.
  12. Get out of your head and into the now; live fully in the moment.
  13. Don’t pop bubbles; think outside of your own bubble and inside others.
  14. Challenge yourself to examine issues from multiple perspectives.
  15. Re-evaluate your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT).
  16. Set attainable and result-driven goals for you and your team.
  17. Focus your energy around creative collaboration.
  18. Encourage on-going and engaged teamwork and development.
  19. Don’t like something?  Then change it.
  20. Check your attitude at the door, while holding that door open for others to shine.
  21. Give more than you receive.
  22. Use that which you receive efficiently.
  23. Be honest with yourself.
  24. Practice transparency with others.
  25. Simplify daunting tasks; let go of some rigidity.
  26. Manage your time efficiently; prioritize.
  27. Be good to and take care of yourself.
  28. Encourage collaborative problem solving.
  29. Discover something new about yourself and others.
  30. Smile, laugh, and then laugh some more.
  31. Do the footwork it takes for the team to be successful.
  32. Don’t settle for the quick fix, find a long-term solution.
  33. Take value in the presence and work of others.
  34. Be innovative while encouraging team synergy.
  35. Patiently respond rather than immediately reacting.
  36. Always give the best you possible.
  37. Learn to say NO when you are overwhelmed.
  38. See opportunity where others see uncertainty.
  39. Empower those you lead by embracing change and unconventional thinking.
  40. Focus on your strengths by leaving your weaknesses.
  41. Breathe deep and let go of lingering frustrations.
  42. Be yourself and let others see the real you.
  43. Be deliberate and reach out to those you lead.
  44. Inspire others to exceed your expectations.
  45. Maintain a healthy balance of positivity and honesty.
  46. Acknowledge and address problems straight away.
  47. Emerge from uncertainty stronger than you went in.
  48. Seek out opportunities to learn and grow as a professional.
  49. Look back to remember but forward to inspire.
  50. Listen to and accept constructive criticism.

What specific resolutions are you working on related our profession? Please share your comments below. If you liked this article, please Like and/ or  Share it on Facebook and Retweet on Twitter. 


Santa Claus Must Be a Student Affairs Professional

December 23, 2013

Santa Student Life

Santa Claus is one of the most revered mythical icons that inspires fun, hope, and joy across the globe. Now that the holiday season is upon us, I starting thinking about how we as student life professionals share many of the same attributes as our trusted friend from the North Pole. I feel that Santa Claus could be the perfect Student Affairs professional!

Santa Claus Nurtures and Appreciates Diversity – Santa delivers toys to children all over the world. In order to do this, he must understand all of those cultures and languages. Santa does not discriminate as he spreads the spirit of the holiday to all children. Likewise, Student Affairs professionals serve and help develop students of varied and diverse backgrounds, cultures, abilities, socioeconomic statuses, and a multitude of other differences.

Santa Claus Inspires for Life – We believe in Santa as children, but this only lasts for a short time. However, we continue this tradition with our own families and enjoy the spirit of the holiday for the rest of our lives. The practice of Student Affairs holds this same value for the students we help develop. Students are only in college for a few short years, but the work of Student Affairs professionals will impact them for the rest of their lives. (Those of you reading this are a perfect example of someone who was positively impacted by at least one Student Affairs professional!)

Santa Claus is Everywhere – From midnight to before the break of dawn on Christmas, Santa magically accomplishes the impossible task of spreading excitement across the globe. Furthermore, he is in cartoons, movies, holiday decorations, and most importantly, in the hearts and minds of everyone during the Christmas season. Student Affairs professionals also perform magic throughout the year to assist, educate, and inspire college and university students. We are seemingly everywhere within the university community. Whether we are participating in committee meetings, sporting events, conduct hearings, training sessions, and advising conversations, our mission is to be involved in all aspects of the student experience.

Santa Claus is a Servant Leader – Santa Claus is a shining example of a servant leader. Not only does he serve children all over the world, but he also takes care of and supervises an army of elves and a herd of magical reindeer. Student Affairs professionals are also servant leaders at heart. Our core mission is to develop and serve the students who come to our colleges and universities. We aim to make students more educated and prepared for when they leave us.

How else does Santa Claus embody the spirit of Student Affairs? Please share your thoughts below and “Like” on Facebook and Tweet if you enjoyed this post. Thank you for all that you do and Happy Holidays!

* Awesome Illustration by Norma Andriani


10 Keys to Effective Student Employee Evaluations

December 10, 2013

10 Keys to Effective Student Employee Evaluations

Being able to supervise student employees is one of the most rewarding parts of being a student affairs professional. It is crucial to offer each student employee a formal evaluation at least once per semester. While there are a diverse assortment of paper evaluations that can be used for this purpose, there are essential tactics that need to be used when formally evaluating your student employees.

1. Permit the Student to Self-Evaluate

  • Let your students evaluate their own performance. This can come in the form of a paper assessment or simply a conversation during your scheduled meeting. This process will aid you in helping to grasp how that student leader perceives themselves and the work they have accomplished. A self-evaluation assists them in thinking critically about their performance and how they are perceived. It will also benefit your evaluation, insomuch that there may be areas that both you and the student know needs improvement so bringing it up will not be a complete shock.

2. Remain Objective

  • Being objective when evaluating your student is paramount. Regardless of any personal feelings or issues that may have occurred throughout the year, you need to keep an open mind. You are evaluating the work and work ethic of your student, not your personal feelings of them. Additionally, be fair and do not play favorites.

3. Seek Understanding

  • Be open to the fact that there were a number of factors that played into their performance. Go into the evaluation with an open mind and willingness to listen. See this as an opportunity to understand what went on from their perspective, but also having the opportunity to have express yourself as well. Then you can work together on developing ways to make improvements.

4. Listen

  • The evaluation is an opportunity for you to not only share your perspective, but also listen to theirs. See the evaluation process as an opportunity to gain a better understanding of your student employee. Also, see it as a chance to learn about what you can do as their supervisor to support them and help them to become a better employee.

5. Provide Honest Feedback

  • Be open and honest with your student. The evaluation process can be stressful and cause anxiety. It is as much an opportunity for them to learn and grow as it is for you as well. Explain the evaluation process ahead of time so that any anxiety is reduced. Be sure to help them recognize how their work and work ethic are perceived; use as many examples as possible. The student also needs to have a clear sense of the areas where they need to improve.

6. Remain Positive

  • The evaluation is an opportunity for you to not only address areas that need improvement, but also to highlight your student’s strengths. Be sure to strategically inject statements that show you realize and appreciate their strengths. Being positive with your student will help further develop your relationship with them, as well as let them know you appreciate the work they have done.

7. Think Like a Mentor

  • See the performance evaluation as a chance for you to mentor your student employees. Remember that one day soon your student will become a professional in the employment world. They could even be one of your next professional staff members so this is an opportunity for you to help them develop and grow into a positive and productive employee.

8. Be Thorough with the Evaluation Process

  • Don’t just rush through and try to get each evaluation done as quickly as possible, spend time on each one. Being thorough in shows that you value and appreciate the work they do. Spending time on the evaluation also lets you to think critically about and process their performance. Spending time aids in your being thorough and effective in your assessment.

9. Plan Together

  • Part of the evaluation is figuring out what you need to do together to make improvements. Spend time at the end of the evaluation working on specific goals that your student needs to meet for improvement. Also, ask your student how you can help them meet these goals. Be sure that these goals are achievable and fair.

10. Follow-Up

  • Don’t let all your hard work on the evaluation process lead to improvements not being made; follow up with your student employee. Let them know that you expect the goals outlined in their evaluation to be met, but that you are also there to help them if needed. Offer suggestions for how they can meet their goals and encourage them to come up with creative solutions. By following up, you are letting that student know that their improvement is important to you and the organization.

The evaluation is as much about the student as it is about you as their supervisor and the organization. Encourage the student to be honest about their performance so you can help them improve to best benefit themselves and the organization. Although there are strong expectations for our student employees, they are still learning, and we need to mentor them appropriately. Keep in mind that learning and growing is a part of the process for all of us.

What are some tips and tactics that you use when evaluating your own student employees? Please share your comments below.

* Graphic courtesy of Dominik Gwarek


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