The Role of Housing & Residence Life on Student Success (***Free Activity Sheet***)

April 27, 2016

Beads

I have developed an activity for resident assistants that can be used during annual training or as a session for staff development throughout the academic year. A university requested that I give a presentation on “What role does on campus housing have in the overall collegiate experience and student success?” Rather than doing the typical PowerPoint presentation and frequently cite research from Pascarella and Terenzini’s How College Affects Students, I thought I’d create a more active and creative experience. Click here to get a free PDF activity sheet that you can print and use with your own staff.

Not only do the student participants get to understand important outcomes associated with living on campus, but they get to reflect on their own personal residence life experience, and actually get to walk away with a personally-significant souvenir. Participants are given a pack of beads and a plastic bracelet strand with a knot tied in the end. You can obtain bags of these beads at a craft store, such as Michaels and Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Stores. The activity leader reads each outcome and the participants put that bead on their bracelet strand if it pertains to them. If not, they simply leave the bead in their pack. Everyone’s experience is different, so it’s perfectly fine if they have different looking strands of beads!

Outcomes include the following:

  1. Orange = Held a leadership position in the halls
  2. Yellow = Participate in at least one extracurricular activity on campus
  3. Red = Resolved a conflict or argument with a roommates
  4. Lavender = Have a friend or have a hall mate who is GLBTQ
  5. Dark Blue = Participated in an living-learning community activity or program
  6. Pink = Feel you have made good decisions for yourself
  7. White =You are satisfied with being at your university
  8. Light Blue = Have met your significant other
  9. Cream = You have decided to go to graduate school
  10. Black = You feel that you are an independent person
  11. Clear Light Blue = You have decided on a profession
  12. Clear Dark Blue = You have a friend or hall mate who is of another culture or nation
  13. Clear Yellow = You enjoy your college experience
  14. Clear Red = Your political views have changed since high school
  15. Clear Pink = Your religious views have changed since high school
  16. Clear Green = You feel confident about your academic abilities
  17. Clear Orange = You feel self-confident about yourself
  18. Clear = You feel like you have personally grown while living in the halls
  19. Green = You have made close friends
  20. Animal (or other special bead different from the others) = You will be graduating this year

The following questions can be used to engage discussion related to the outcomes:

  • Which of these outcomes stood out the most for you personally?
  • How have you felt you contributed to one of these outcomes for a resident you oversee?
  • What can the residence life program do to foster more of these outcomes for residents?
  • How has this activity motivated you to any new action or attitude?

Additionally, the participants can continue to customize their bead strands into a bracelet or keychain with supplies you provide. This can include lettered beads into which they can incorporate their names. This is a great way for your staff to learn about the important role of living on campus while also giving them time to bond, share their own experiences with each other, and be creative.

Click HERE to receive a free PDF copy of the activity sheet that you can use and share.

Please comment below if you use this activity and let us know how it went!


Creating a “Leadership Kit” Passive Program (***free handout***)

November 14, 2013

Leadership Kit

For many years I have been putting together and distributing small “Leadership Kits” to my employees and various student leaders whose leadership skills I aim to develop further. Recently I gave these to my students in our Leadership Living-Learning Community to help emphasize some of the attributes of being a “servant leader.” Although I themed the kits for servant leadership, you can adopt them to serve your own particular leadership needs.

The kit comes in the form of a Ziploc bag that includes the following inexpensive items that correspond to various aspects of leadership:

  • Snickers Candy – leaders need a sense of humor
  • Dum Dum Lollipops – leaders learn from their mistakes
  • Rubber bands – leaders are flexible
  • Pen / Pencil & Pad (Post-It Notes) – leaders write down good ideas
  • Highlighter – leaders highlight the strengths of their team members
  • Light stick – leaders show the way
  • Glue stick – leaders keep the team together
  • Super Ball – because leaders are super to their team
  • Index cards for the leadership quote(s) and item explanation

Outside of the symbolic representation of the items, the kit also serves as a small resource supply bag that students and employees can use from a practical standpoint to accomplish such tasks as homework and other school and job-related projects. The kits can be used for staff welcome back gifts, primers for team discussions, marketing efforts for an upcoming leadership activity, and even as a simple passive activity / program for your students.

You can create your own “Leadership Kit, by downloading this free, ready-made leadership kit label template in order to print out the leadership cards and quotes you will need to assemble your own kits. These can be printed on Avery labels (Template #5163) and adhered to index cards or you can simply print them on paper and cut them out.

Enjoy and please share with the handout with your colleagues!


Conflict Resolution Questionnaire (***free activity handout***)

August 21, 2013

Conflict Questionnaire Activity

Each of us has our own personal conflict style. Because of this we may handle situations in different ways, which can cause various conflicts. There are five basic conflict styles, which are briefly described here:

Competing – “Fighting the good fight” is par for the course for this particular style. In most cases this is counterproductive to resolving conflicts.

Compromising – “Give-and-take” is the approach for someone who normally compromises.

Avoiding – Conflict is never encouraged and typically avoided. This can create further conflicts because issues aren’t being communicated and shared.

Accommodating – Accomodaters sacrifice for the sake of others to resolve a dispute. While this may be an ends to a means, it can ultimately lead to their needs and wants not being taken care of.

Collaborating – “Let’s work on it together to come up with a solution” is the driving force behind this particular style.

Here is a Conflict Questionnaire that can be utilized as an activity for conflict resolution training and / or to have a discussion about communication among individuals. Please feel free to share among your students and colleagues.


What is Your Programming GPA? (***free handout***)

February 6, 2013

MH900400047

Planning and attending programs and activities is typically the most fun part of a student affairs professional’s year. Successful programming is not only a skill, but an art. However, we need to be able to teach our programming standards to our full-time and student staffers so they understand what is and what is NOT an excellent program. Unfortunately programming expectations can be very nebulous, subjective, and many times concentrate on quantity rather than quality.

In order to better define the standards programming for my own student staff, I developed a simple, one-page Programming Rubric. Simply stated, a rubric is a written set of criteria for which a task is measured against. Rubrics are typically used by K-12 teacher and professors in the classroom in order to set the standards for how an essay, research paper, presentation, or other assignment will be graded.

The rubric includes a rating of Excellent, Good, Average, and Poor for five areas, including Pre-Planning, Marketing, Finances, Evaluation, and Overall Assessment. There is also a section for comments specific to the actual program being evaluated. Each rating has a numerical value attached to it so you can evaluate a program by creating a programming grade point average (GPA). Given there are five areas of evaluation, including the overall assessment, the points will range from a minimum of five to a maximum of 20. After adding each area together, you divide by five in order to get the program GPA. A programming GPA is a great standard for students because they can relate to it very easily, is easy for them to conceptualize, and offers you the opportunity to discuss results during one-on-one’s and semesterly and / or annual evaluations.

As a specific example, imagine you have a resident assistant who plans a resume writing workshop in which she invites an employee from career services to speak and offer tips. The RA discusses the program with you ahead of time and gets the proper consent as well as advice on how to improve the program. She advertises only using Facebook and spends $75.00 on pizza. Unfortunately, only five students attend the program, and there is little follow up of regarding student feedback and / or learning outcomes assessment. Using the rubic, you give a grading of “Good” (3.0) for Pre-Planning, “Poor” (1.0) for Marketing, “Average” (2.0) for Finances, “Average” (2.0) for Evaluation, and “Average” (2.0) for Overall Assessment. Adding these together, you get a score of 10 points. Divide that by five (for the five areas of assessment), and she earns an “Average” (2.0) GPA for the program.

Download the free Programming Rubric handout to help assess your programming. Feel free to utilize the rubric as a template that you can edit in order to create an appropriate tool for your own department and staffing needs.


11 RA Staff Development Activities (free resources)

September 28, 2012

The aspect of leadership I most enjoy is being able to create development opportunities for my staff. Staff in-service opprtunities can include anything from skills building activities, trips, discussions, and games. Here are 10 different staff development / in-service activities you can prepare for your staff:

1. Show-and-Tell – We all like talking about our personal stories and things that hold special meaning in our lives. Have each of your RA staffers bring something to your staff development meeting to share with the group. I’ve had RA’s bring special awards, mementos from family members, and other items that hold special sentimental value. The activity allows staffers to learn things about one another that they may not have known before. This is a no-cost activity that usually sparks great discussion.

2. Teamwork Field Trips –  Take your staff on a local field trip to meet with leaders who manage a team in a business or non-profit organization. I previously wrote a post on how I took my staff on a trip of the USAirways command center and aircraft maintenance facilities. I connected with a friend who manages mechanic safety, and he was able to get us a tour where he and his team spoke about the crucial importance of communication and teamwork. You could plan a similar trip by contacting leaders of organizations in your local area. Businesses typically like to show off their work and accomplishments so you should have luck setting something like this up. The worst they can say is “no.”

3. Article & Book Discussions – I am a big advocate of reading and recommending those resources to my staff and colleagues. If your budget allows, purchase a particular book for your staff. They can read the book prior to your having an in-service meeting to discuss the book and how you can apply its content to your own organization. You can even prepare “discussion prompt” worksheets so they can jot down ideas prior to the meeting. To simplify things, assign a particular chapter or even a small journal or magazine article for the discussion.

4. Games & Simulations – I enjoy creating and leading games and simulation activities for my staff. Games and simulations should be centered around learning specific aspects of their RA position, including teamwork, basic counseling skills, and communication.  Click HERE to find a handful of simulation activities related to diversity, delegation, and communication. I also highly recommend Barnga: A Simulation Game on Cultural Clashes by Thiagi.

5. Case Studies – You can create various case studies that your staff can work on to determine various solutions. Pair up newer RA’s with your veterans so they can work together. Case studies for RA’s can range from conduct and mental health issues to diversity and teamwork challenges.

6. Community Service Projects – Arrange for your staff to participate in a local community service project. Projects can range from helping at food banks, YMCA and other youth group organizations, churches, and local municipalities.

7. Photo Scavenger Hunt – While I understand that scavenger hunts can be discouraged at some schools due to hazing policies, photo scavenger hunts can be an easy way to build team collaboration and spirit. Larger staffs can be broken up into smaller teams and sent out to get photos of various objects and situations. The team that gets the most photos of the objects listed in the time alloted wins a prize (or simply kudos). Here is a photo scavenger hunt sheet you can print and use.

8. MOOC Courses – A “MOOC” is a massive online open course. MOOC’s are free (hence the “open”) and offered by various universities and organizations, such as Stanford, MIT, and Khan Academy. Some of the course materials would be appropriate to use for staff development activities, including business, management, and psychology lessons. RA’s could work on various lessons you assign on their own time or read the content prior to attending a staff meeting where it will be discussed.

9. Webinars – Similar to #8, webinars are online presentations that can be viewed as a group or individually. There are many webinars available online for a fee and for free. Topics range from business, marketing, and social media use, leadership, and student life-related areas. Pre-tests and post-tests tied to student life outcome efforts could be created and administered.

10. Arts & Crafts – Sometimes staff development activities can be simply for fun. The completed projects can be kept by the staff or donated to local care homes and hospitals. Craft supplies can be purchased at Walmart, Target, local craft stores, or even online at Oriental Trading.

11. Leadership Chats – Facilitating leadership-related discussions between RA’s and executive administrators at the university can prove to be very insightful and expose them to individuals they may not normally interact with. University staffers, such as the Vice President of Student Affairs, Vice President of Finance & Administration, and the Director of Housing & Residence Life can be invited to in-service meetings to discuss topics regarding career development and being a leader.


Using Twitter to Enhance Orientation and FYE Programs

August 25, 2012
 
 
Twitter is a perfect and inexpensive way to connect with new students and their parents. For those of you who may not be completely adept at using Twitter, you can reference Twitter 101 for Student Affairs Professionals to learn more about the power of using Twitter in Student Affairs.  
 
If you don’t already have one, create and advertise the orientation Twitter handle / name to parents and students and tell them that they can use this to ask any questions they have during the process. (Note: You MUST have someone monitoring this from your office constantly to give a quick response.) Armed with an orientation and / or FYE Twitter account, the sky is the limit for making new relationships with your students.
 
Here are some tactics that you can use to enhance your orientation and FYE programs at your own college or university:
  • Ask students to tweet what they are learning and experiencing during orientation or FYE-related activities.
  • Give them a hashtag to include in their tweets (e.g., #FYE2012; #NewUStudent12). Create a contest and prize for the most tweets over the orientation period (or varying categories: most creative, best advice, most retweeted, most mentioned)
  • Create Twitter scavenger hunts. As students go from area to area, they can send tweets based on a sheet you give them related to information they should be learning.
  • Ask parents to Tweet their best college advice; you would have to create a hashtag for this purpose so you can track them. Otherwise they need to mention your twitter name in the tweet. A “quality” prize (e.g., hoodie, dinner with VP or president, etc.) could be raffled at the end of the orientation period.

Here are examples of specific tweets that you can send: 

  • Show this Tweet at the bookstore during orientation to get 10% off.
  • What do you want to accomplish and how can we help you?
  • Show this tweet at check-in and get a free university lanyard.
  • Who is a new friend you can recommend to follow?
  • What has been your favorite part of orientation so far?

Take some time to search for other colleges and universities’ orientation and FYE departments from across the country and look at their tweets to see what they are doing. You can also simply tweet this question with the #studentaffairs, #orientation, #FYE, and #sachat hashtags and you’ll get responses from many individuals.

What are some other Twitter tactics that you have used to enhance your orientation and FYE programs? Please share your comments below.


Making the Interview Process for Leadership Positions an Educative Experience (*free resource handout*)

February 9, 2012

Following up on a blog post titled 10 Secrets to Recruiting & Screening for Great Resident Advisors, I thought it would be helpful to create a post and “Individual Interview Questions for Student Leaders” free handout related to the interview process for all student leader positions. Crafting appropriate interview questions for interviews can be challenging, particularly if you do not already have an existing interview protocol already created. Consider the following for your next interview process:

  • Make the interview process itself an educational experience for the student. I had a colleague at a previous institution who set up resume writing and interviewing workshops prior to the actual interview process. Student candidates were invited to attend these short (30 minutes) workshops that were held in a lecture hall. Tips and suggestions were given to students related to interview practice, appropriate dress, follow-up, and information on how to seek out services at the career center for additional help and preparation. Even if they did not get the job, they still walked away with invaluable life-long skills that will help them after they leave college.
  • Student leader interviews SHOULD NOT be an officially sanctioned “hazing” experience. The goal is to illicit important information to see if a candidate is qualified and prepared for the student leader role and not to make them “pay their dues” in order to get the job. You want to make the experience as educative and positive as possible. Keep in mind that most of us student affairs professionals got our jobs after a typical phone interview and a visit to campus with various meetings. If your student leader hiring protocol is more involved than what you went through to get your own position, you may want to rethink the process. (Remember that they are students.)
  • When crafting questions, first list the qualities and skills that you need these student leaders to possess. Then develop your questions to assess for these particular attributes. For example, if you are hiring campus tour guides, you would list qualities such as: enthusiasm, ability to remember many facts and details, sociable, and quick to think on their feet. A question like “How would you respond to a parent touring the campus who asks what students can do on the weekends?” gets to the heart of their ability to think on their feet and demonstrate if they are knowledgable of campus activities and services. Not only are you going to see if they give an appropriate answer unrelated to partying, but to see if they can actually list activities available on the weekends.
  • Test interview existing student leaders. When you have your questions selected, do a test run with the student employees you already have. If your current student staffers are stumped by any of the questions, it is going to be certain that new candidates will not be able to answer them either. Get their feedback on their own interview process and what they think is important to include in an interview. They are out in the field actually doing the job so respect their experience and utilize them as an added resource. Additionally, include them in on the interview process as well so this becomes educative for them. Not only can they list this on a resume, but they will be able to implement what you taught them if they end up in hiring roles themselves in the future.

Click to receive a free “Individual Interview Questions for Student Leaders” handout, which lists 30 different interview questions that can be adopted for your own interview processes. 

Please feel free to share this resource with your colleagues.


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