Reflecting on the Past

March 29, 2011

A Journey of Self-Reflection

What pops into your mind when I say the University of California at Berkley?  Maybe images of hippies in  the late 1960′s wearing bell bottoms and strumming their guitars on the lawn between classes.  Or maybe you are a reader of the Student Life Guru Blog that has actually been UC Berkley and know that stereotype is long extinct. 

Take a look at this modern version of UC Berkley: http://bit.ly/eHiIlk (access date 3/29/2011.)  

Now gaze at this historical image of UC Berkley from 1907:  http://1.usa.gov/hZInBp  (access date 3/29/2011.)

The physical differences are both stunning and obvious.  Just like UC Berkley, in one hundred years a lot has changed on campuses all over the country.  Has the essence or mission of colleges and universities changed drastically in the last century?  Examine these photos again in terms of your own role at your college or university.

  • In my current position, what would my role to students be in 1911?
  • Do you think your current job would be vastly different in the past then it is now and how?
  • What sorts of interactions would you have with students in the early 1900′s?
  • How do you think students would perceive you one hundred years ago as their leader/mentor?
  • Do you think your mission towards students is different then your current mission? How? Why?

Maybe after some reflection you feel glad that you can happily tweet your staff to invite them to an impromptu cup of coffee for all their hard work or maybe like a colleague of yours in the distant past you put pen-to-paper and draft a glowing letter of thanks for your exceptional staffer. 

Has the mission, developing students and leaders, changed dramatically in one hundred years or is student development the same but the methods different?

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The 1907 image of the University of California at Berkley, along with 238 breathtaking panoramic views of colleges in the early 1900′s, are available in the Digital Collections of the Library of Congress (access date 3/29/2011.)  You just might be able to find an image of your school there! (Panoramic Photographs access date 3/29/2011.) You must actually click on college campuses embedded in the paragraph.

Current photos of UC Berkley are available on their website: http://www.berkeley.edu/photos/campus/ (access date 3/29/2011.)


Volunteering as an Alternative Spring Break Advisor / Chaperone (Guest Post by Jamie Shook)

March 23, 2011

In March, I had the unique opportunity to serve as a graduate student chaperone for an Alternative Spring Break trip to Detroit, Michigan, with students at the University of South Carolina. I heard the trip would require construction work, and I had an image of myself in my worn undergraduate t-shirts with a hammer and nails laughing in the sunshine over spring break with students, and gathering in the evening for significant group reflection that inspired laughter and tears. The day our group left for Detroit, I loaded my oversized suitcase along with nine students and a professional staff member into a 15 passenger van and proceeded to Michigan. 

Here are some highlights from my trip with some advice related to participating as an alternative spring break advisor / chaperone:

Go for it!  The volunteer opportunity came as an email six months ago on a listserv asking for professional and graduate student help. I informally replied to the contact person my interest.  At the time, I was not able to predict how busy my spring would be with my graduate assistantship, academic coaching, and summer internships interviews.  As the trip neared, so did my eager anticipation (and perhaps my anxiety) for the trip. There were certainly moments prior to the trip where I thought, “Shouldn’t I be using that week to relax? Catch up on work? Sleep?” But my advice to you, if I had any for this, is to go for it!

You may think you have control, but you have no idea. Volunteer opportunities are always a tricky thing. You have to be beyond flexible (nearly fluid) to have a successful experience.  urther, as a chaperone you may think in a moment of complete naiveté that you have some form of control beyond what the students have. This may be true as far as holding the pre-paid gas card, but completely alien from the truth in many other ways. The student leader who coordinated and planned the service trip revealed details of the trip coordination as the trip moved forward. My advice: Ensure students are safe and (relatively) happy and watch the group dynamic and student leadership in the making. Support the student leader as needed, but be happy to give up the reigns, and watch the learning process of your students.

Community building is essential. It takes more than a bus ride. As a chaperone, you sometimes only have the trip to help develop community within the group. Our group did not meet regularly prior to the trip but would have benefited greatly from such opportunity. Recognize the value community building brings to your service trip, make it a priority, and schedule time to create group community prior to the trip. This further allows you, as a chaperone, to gain an understanding of the needs of individuals in the group and benefits you during the trip as group dynamic issue comes into play.

There will probably be group dynamic issues. Recognize this and roll with it. Support your student leader in understanding their role in group conflict and the outstanding opportunity for growth that comes from it. As the chaperone, ensure that all rules are being followed, and show impartiality during the conflict. Help students, individually or in the group, process the conflict afterward, and discuss what they have gained from this particular experience.

Not everyone in your group will be thrilled about the service opportunity. You may run into an issue where a student is not happy to be working on homes, interacting with children, or assisting the aging community. As a chaperone, encourage the students that are enjoying the service experience, and work with individuals who are not. Intentional discussions to express mutual expectations prior to the trip are key to avoiding this issue, but in the moment you can help the student recognize the strengths they bring to this particular project and the skills they are gaining. Help the student make connections between their service projects this week and their multiple roles back at their home institution and local community.

Students will form meaningful moments with their peers, sometimes (gasp) without your help. You will be amazed and how your students interact. It was inspiring for me to play cards in the evening and watch as the group of students encouraged and supported each other. As much as I would love to take credit for the deepened relationships among the group, I can’t. Meaningful moments can be created without intentionality. While it is important to create moments for reflection and team building, recognize the value of unplanned moments of meaning. 

Student learning is essential, but take time to think about your own learning, too. I can guarantee you will learn as a chaperone on an Alternative Spring Break trip with 24/7 student contact. Recognize the importance of student learning, but also think of your own growth during the trip. Encourage others to break barriers, but do the same yourself.

Journal during the trip. During formalized reflection, give your own personal thoughts from the trip. This will encourage students to reflect and think about the affect their current work has on their current and future roles as students and professionals.

It’s an adventure, and it’s worth it. Alternative Spring Break trips are true adventures. Treat these trips as such, and recognize that adventures come with responsibilities. Prepare for the adventure accordingly. Alternative Spring Break trips require hard work and preparation, but they are worth it.

Jaime Shook is a graduate student in the Higher Education Student Affairs program at the University of South Carolina (USC).  She serves as a graduate assistant for University 101, the first-year seminar course, and as an academic skills coach for the Academic Centers for Excellence (ACE) at the University. 


5 Rules for Student Leadership (guest post by Jeff Stafford)

March 14, 2011

(submitted by Jeff Stafford of Orange Slice Training)

A recent article from the Center for Creative Leadership (CCL) reviewed key findings from a new book coining the phrase “Open Leadership.”  While the book is written from the influence of social media on leadership, I think these new Rules are applicable to student leadership as well. I’ve adapted them to fit the current reality of student leadership today:

1.  Respect that others have power. The simple lesson in this is that leadership is more about character than charisma; your leadership is NOT positional.  A traditional mindset of command and control leadership is going to go the way of MySpace in a Twitter-induced world.

2.  Share constantly to build trust. Sometimes leaders might feel they need to put on the “air” of knowing all and being professionally tight-lipped.  Be able to share information, responsibilities, and CREDIT. This will go a long way to build your skills as leaders.  People are talking whether you share the information or not. So be in control by sharing and not dictating.

3.  Nurture curiosity & humility. Only a fool thinks they can do this alone.  That’s the same fool who takes on doing a campus event all by themselves because no one else would do it as well or don’t have the time to do it as well as you.  Right.  And you will be the only one at the program that night.  Being able to be curious is about exploring ideas and not grilling someone for information.

4. Hold yourself as accountable as you do others. If you expect the same from yourself as you do others, you create an openness based in integrity. You do what you say you are going to do. And you make it right if it’s gone awry. You get to apologize when you know it’s not up to your standard.  And you make it right for you and those touched by your leadership.

5. There are no failures. There are only lessons in learning. Even in the example of doing the program by yourself and enjoying the band all by yourself can still be a lesson. When seen this way, versus failure, you provide an opportunity for others to take risks, live big, and share in your vision of leadership. Reread #4 if you keep repeating the lessons over and over, and see how you might hold yourself a bit more accountable so that they are not repeated.

Applying these 5 Rules of Open Leadership will allow you and your organization to build strong relationships with each other and the relationship your group creates in the context of the Student Life Experience.

Jeff Stafford is founder of Orange Slice Training – a company that specializes in creating learning and leadership events that are JUICY!  As a former Student Affairs professional, Jeff holds a M.S. in Counseling & Student Personnel from Minnesota State University, Mankato.  He is also the author of the upcoming book, Create Your Juicy Life.  Grab your FREE action guides HERE.  Connect with Jeff to learn more how Orange Slice Training can be a part of your next leadership event.


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