Entering into Outreach in the Field: Rules for Preparing Your Proposal

In an effort to help those less experienced in the area of proposal writing, John P. Summerlot put together a list of 11 important rules regarding preparations for a conference in his article with the Eighth Vector (2008). Though with more of a focus from ACPA, his rules are informative regardless of the conference experience one is trying to enter into. I wanted to take his rules and reiterate their importance and add a little extra perspective to help others entering into the proposal writing process.

  1. Stick to What You Know: In an effort to impress, it is not surprising that some would try to delve into topics that may be hot items right now but not significant interest areas for that person. It is always better to go with a topic area that is a passion of your or you at least have some direct experience with.
  2. Go With Something Unique and Timely: Choosing a topic that is a little too narrow in a niche (though possibly very interesting) or choosing the topic that everyone else wants to present on can backfire if you cannot bring something to the table that will engage and impress. Finding a balance between the two can help make your program be a standout feature of the conference (i.e. using media resources as a gauge of the student assessment of campus safety in the wake of mass shooting incidents).
  3. Know Your Audience: While you would love the program to appeal to everyone, it is not usually possible to be able to craft that perfect session. Still, you want to try to appeal to as large of a population as possible, so avoid focusing on topics that are overly focused and try to make it as interdisciplinary as possible.
  4. Raise the Interest Factor: Sometimes, you best efforts may not yield your best results. Try writing the abstract, or at least reviewing it, on different days and under different conditions. Make sure that you are articulating your focus but also highlighting what is unique and engaging about your specific presentation.
  5. Don’t Do This Alone: Getting someone you trust to proofread and analyze your proposal can be one of the greatest differences between selection or rejection. Grammar issues and spelling errors may not completely derail an attempt but they can make it a tough path to get through.
  6. Be Clear Throughout the Proposal: It is important that all parts of the proposal match an support each other, but it is even more vital that the abstract and the description of the program both highlight the topic, purpose and outcomes of your session.
  7. Create an Open Environment: Sessions feel a little less stale if there is a chance for audience participation. Being able to articulate that somewhere in the proposal is beneficial to selection, both by the committee and the attendees at conference time.
  8. Keep It Real: While conferences are times to convey important research or discuss scholarly issues, stuffiness and emphasizing the intellectual side of the session could actually backfire (and so could being too casual with the topic). Balance is important to both emphasize the importance of the topic and make the topic accessible to a broad audience.
  9. Aim High But Not Always for the Moon: Having lofty goals can be okay but they can also be a deterrent. Promising to save the world can be a little too ambitious for those are seeking more trust in the presenters they hope to observe. At the same time, it is impossible to promise that every solution will work at every institution. Providing a framework to take back to individual institutions allows attendees to see if and how they can adapt your findings or recommendations to their environments.
  10. Tracking Can Be Beneficial: While getting too narrow can be detrimental to successfully attracting a crowd, tracking can actually help identify the type of audience you are searching for. Hosting a session that focuses on promising practices may not be during the peak session blocks but could also attract the more dedicated professionals that are willing to came early and stay late to attend your session.
  11. Rules are Guidelines, NOT Restrictions: I know that is a little off in terms of the definition of rules, but the concept here is that you should not get bogged down by the rules or requirements that people share in terms of conference proposals. If you want to be unconventional in terms of your topic, you should go for it. The comments from others are suggestions and recommendations, not carved in stone.

Preparing for a Career in Student Affairs

In a recent article in the Eighth Vector, Sara Doyle, Kristen Renn and Eric Jessup-Anger discussed one of the most important issues for graduate students and new professionals in the field of higher education…preparation for Student Affairs. It is not recent news that Student Affairs as a field has struggled to maintain high persistence of its staff. Many young men and women enter into Student Affairs position without considering what the opportunity could be long-term. Some have high hopes but fail to plan effectively. Renn and Jessup-Anger studied graduate students and young professionals to try to understand where the pitfalls are that deter people from staying in the field.

  1. Broader Scope of Learning: The transition from graduate school to the professional world means that learning is not a 1-way street like it may have been. It is important that you are working with you students on collaborative learning and considering ways to give back to the field.
  2. Maintaining a Focus on Learning: The process of learning happens both inside and outside of a classroom. For those who are more traditional, there are ways to engage in classroom learning from a professional level, but there are more ways to maintain that value through non-classroom methods. Asking questions and engaging in the work context of your theories are just two ways to refocus your work into continued development.
  3. Engage in the Environment: Culture is a big part of the working world and each university has a different one (or at least different variables). Missing the mark on communication methods and how staff relate to each other could be detrimental to one’s personal/professional success.
  4. Take Ownership of Your Development: While a supervisor can guide and help search of opportunities, only you know where you path leads. You have to identify the experiences you want to have and topics with whic you want to engage. You need to define your plan, while your colleagues and supervisor can help to define the specific opportunities to steer you toward.
  5. Supervisor = Mentor?: While this is a possible relationship, you may connect better with other colleagues at your institution or at other institutions (through conference or other professional development experiences). No every supervisor has the ability to be all things to all supervisees.
  6. Define Your Mentor Lineup: Recognizing what your professional development plan may look like should be accompanied with who can help you navigate that path an support you through the process. Some individuals may be comfortable with one main mentor but identifying multiple people could be very beneficial.
  7. Balance New and Existing Support Networks: There are going to be some support networks that are very beneficial for your development and motivation (i.e. graduate school cohort or other new professionals). Each support network you have may only be able to support you in certain areas or up to a point, but they still remain valuable to your balance. Examine how different people support the maintenance and continued development of your career.
  8. Work Does NOT Equal Life: It is easy to put in the extra hours in Student Affairs, especially if you live on-campus in Housing and/or are single. You may love your job, but burnout is a major issue in the field and a balance must be met. There is more to life than working with students and everyone needs to find their personal passion areas and find the time to focus on them.
  9. Give Yourself Reflection: If you feel that you are in a great place, then do not change anything for the time being. If you are feeling challenged by your position or the balance in your life, do not make any rash decisions. It takes a full year to transition into a new place or a new position. Use your resources to process your experiences and make informed decisions to either continue to learn for the experience or make any necessary changes.
  10. Balance Confidence and Restraint: It is okay to be confident but humbleness is a virtue as well. It can be frustrating to be bursting with ideas and want to go headstrong into changes or to show off your knowledge fresh from graduate school, but both of those interactions are quick ways to create rifts in your professional relationships.

These are all fairly important tips to remember, particularly in the process of transition to the professional environment. In summary…learning is lifelong….balance is key…build meaningful, lasting relationships…reflect.

The Importance of Motivation: Avoiding the Creation of Disgruntled Employees

I have been an advocate of the How Full Is Your Bucket book and program provided by Gallup for some time now, but it always good to get a little reinforcement for the importance of focusing on the work environment created for my employees. In the past, I know that I have been in a few work situations that failed to meet my expectations for support, guidance and trust in my peers/supervisors. It is when these things are missing that workplaces struggle and people start to leave for better opportunities.

Encouragement, trust, development, communication, honesty and relationship building are keys to success, at least according to Joseph Folkman from Harvard Business Review (http://hbr.org/). I have copied the blog post below because I do agree with his thoughts, though I would expand development more or add a statement about providing challenge and encouraging leadership among your staff members. I have found it effective to entrust seasoned staff members with extra tasks or leadership of a project. They need to feel like there is something fresh about the position to maintain those higher levels of engagement.


You can’t make every worker happy, surely, and should a business even try? Evidence from our recent research suggests, actually, that the answer is yes. Or rather, our evidence shows that managers are giving up far too soon on their disgruntled employees, making them less productive than they could be, exposing their companies to unnecessary risks from thefts and leaks in the process, and inflating turnover costs.

What causes employees to become disgruntled and what can be done to prevent it? To find out we zeroed in on the most unhappy people in our data. These were 6% in our database of 160,576 employees who displayed the lowest levels of job satisfaction and commitment on their 360 evaluations of their bosses. We were looking for those among them whose managers also oversaw the most satisfied employees. In this way we identified that group of leaders who were managing both the very unhappy and the very happy at the same time.

The results of the data were clear: There is most definitely such a thing as “the boss’s favorites.” And while, in any disagreement we inevitably find both parties bear part of the fault — that is, the disgruntled employees do certainly play some role in their own unhappiness — we consistently found in the analysis that their complaints were justified. Their managers were in fact treating the disgruntled employee differently than they treated their very satisfied employees. What’s more, when the managers in question started to treat their disgruntled employees like everyone else, the employees’ behavior quickly improved.

Our results suggest a clear path forward for bringing disgruntled employees back into the fold. In particular, the unhappy group in our survey strongly agreed on six major areas in which they felt (and we agree) that their leaders needed to improve:

  • Encourage me more. When we asked the unhappy 6% to name the skill they thought was most important for their boss to demonstrate, the top response was “Inspire and motivate others.” Too often, managers take a negative tone with disgruntled employees. Expecting that efforts to motivate will be ignored, none are proffered, and the expectations become self-fulfilling. But our data suggest managers should take the opposite view: Work harder to inspire this group. Keep the conversation positive. Expect the best, not the worst.
  • Trust me more. It’s probably not surprising that both parties — unhappy employee and boss alike — distrust each other. The key to restoring trust is to operate with the belief that the other party can change. Here we’d suggest the manager make the first move by making the effort to understand the employee’s problems. Then, as both parties work on their relationship, they must strive for consistency —that is, the manager must strive to treat all employees equitably, and both parties must strive to reliably do what they say they will do. Over time, trust will grow.
  • Take an interest in my development. If a person works hard and gets a pay check he has a job. But if a person works hard, gets a pay check, and learns a new skill, she has a career. Career development should not be focused only on the high-potentials. As counterintuitive as it may seem, don’t leave the underachievers out when distributing stretch assignments.
  • Keep me in the loop. Communication is fundamentally a management function, so this responsibility rests squarely with the managers. Great communicators do three things well. First, they share information and keep everyone well informed. Second, they ask good questions, inviting the opinions and views from others — all others. Third, they listen. And not just to the people they like.
  • Be more honest with me. People want to know how they’re really doing on the job — and the one’s not in favor perhaps even more than the one’s feeling the warm glow of approval. They want to know why they’re falling short. They want a chance to improve. Too often, though, the bottom 6% felt their bosses were not giving honest feedback, glossing over problems with comments like “You’re coming along fine,” when clearly they were not. What’s more, many reported promises being made (“if you finish this project on time then…”) that were not kept. Honesty is the bedrock of good relationships.
  • Connect with me more. Anything managers can to do improve their relationship with the disgruntled employees will have a significant positive influence. Here’s where favoritism takes on its most concrete form: managers go to lunch more with people they like, our data show; they talk with them more socially (about children, sports, etc); they know them more personally. This is natural, surely, but so are the feelings of exclusion it creates among the less favored. A small effort by managers to spread their attention around more broadly can go a long way here.

As leaders, our knee-jerk reaction to unfavored (and disgruntled) employees is often — “It’s their own fault!” Our research shows this is not always (and often not wholly) the case. Before you settle for letting your dissatisfied people go and cost your organization thousands of dollars in employee turnover, take a moment to consider how these performers need to be treated.

If not for their sake, then for everyone else’s sake. Research by the University of British Columbia recently published in the Journal of Human Resources has shown that those who witness workplace bullying become equally disgruntled as the victims and just as likely to quit. All employees need leaders who know how to inspire and motivate them, give them opportunities for development, and treat them with the respect and dignity they each deserve.

A third of a person’s life is spent in the workplace, sometimes more. When the environment is created by an extraordinary leader who cares about everyone’s development, it leaves employees with little room to complain.

Start of a New Academic Year: Starting with a Commencement Speech by Steve Jobs

In 2005, Steve Jobs addressed the new graduates of Stanford with tales from his life. With his recent passing, it is truly amazing to think about what he accomplished with his life and how significant the lessons he learned apply to our broader society. This should hopefully be a little motivation for the start of a new academic year.

The Link Between Strengths and Wellbeing

After several months of taking the Wellbeing Finder assessment provided by Gallup, I have learned a few things about my overall wellbeing. The first is that days where I have a great amount of social interaction, I tend to have higher wellbeing scores. This may not be a surprise, but it is important to note. Second, I learned that I tend to have a higher average wellbeing score on days that I am not at work. In turn, those generally are weekend days or times when I am away from the office. The most beneficial finding from the assessment has been that I tend to have higher wellbeing scores when I am able to lead with my Strengths.

It is not an automatic element of the assessment that one can discern based off the assessment questions. There are no direct questions related to use of Strengths or even the activities you engaged in while at work. Instead, it takes a more reflective approach to identifying what occurred throughout that day and how those interactions, accomplishments or experiences contributed to that day’s overall wellbeing.

For example, the week that I spent at the University of Georgia while attending NHTI was the highest overall week of wellbeing since I started the assessment. Since the experience was career-related, I still consider it to compare to the experience of a regular week of work. The days were long and the sessions were packed, but I found that I was actively embracing my Strengths throughout the week. My Developer element came out through the engagement in the sessions and the self-reflection I went through in the evenings. My Relator and Empathy elements was prevalent through the interactions, connections with new colleagues and sharing of experiences. My Responsibility element was gleaming from the experience of feeling like I was back in graduate school and embracing the educational interactions and homework.

While NHTI was a special case, I have found this true during a regular week as well. The week of August 5th was one of two different sides. The first half was filled with preparations for the start of training and few interactions outside of a couple of meetings. Starting with Wednesday afternoon, a handful of our student leaders came back and we started training. My Developer, Empathy and Relator elements all began to shine again because I had an opportunity to connect with and affect the development of this students through their training. This is not to say that there was not a little stress involved and my focus for those days was almost solely on these students, but the reality is that I truly enjoy those types of experiences.

My personal goal is to continue to find opportunities to focus on my Strengths and continue to improve my overall work experience. For more information, Gallup released an article recently talking specifically about this topic:

Uncovering the Links Between Happiness and Health

Sarah Pressman’s research into wellbeing can help educators help students be healthy and engaged in the classroom

Sarah Pressman, Ph.D., will share her insights on the connections between positive emotions, relationships, and happiness — and the pathways that support health outcomes — at the Strengths in Education Conference. She will also discuss how these connections relate to the wellbeing of students and how educators can support students to have the highest wellbeing possible.

Dr. Pressman’s work as Beatrice Wright Assistant Professor of Psychology at the University of Kansas seeks to find links between happiness, wellbeing, and health outcomes. It also has important implications for educators who want to promote student health and wellbeing in their classrooms and at the schools or on their campuses.

Strengths Insights: What connections have you found that link physical health and overall wellbeing?

Sarah D. Pressman, Ph.D.: Research in the field of positive psychology has shown that people who are happy are living longer and are less likely to get sick. For example, we’re exploring when and how positive emotions protect you from stress, because stress is associated with about 95% of the illnesses out there. When you’re stressed, you experience hormonal changes and your immune system is suppressed, but if you get over that negative physiological response faster, it’s better for your health.

Strengths Insights: How does your research into stress connect to students in a school system or on a college or university campus? How can teachers help their students learn how to better handle stress?

Dr. Pressman: One thing that students don’t understand is how much they compromise their health when they’re stressed. When our stress hormones go up, our immune system is suppressed. If teachers talk about how stress affects us all, maybe students will avoid the kinds of negative behaviors that will further compromise their health, so they won’t end up sick, missing school, or unable to take their exams. It might help students know and recognize that they’re probably not at their healthiest when they’re stressed, and they probably should be doing things to protect themselves, like getting enough sleep, and washing their hands.

Strengths Insights: Gallup research into wellbeing has shown that people who have at least three or four very close friendships are healthier, have higher wellbeing, and are more engaged in their jobs, while the absence of any close friendships can lead to boredom, loneliness, and depression. How does that align with what you’ve found in researching wellbeing? How does that play out in schools or on campuses?

Dr. Pressman: Social relationships, positive emotion, and wellbeing are extremely closely tied. Work is a very stressful place, and we know that your stress is buffered by having a perception of social support. So believing that you have a few close friends that are at work who can help you and give you emotional support will help you objectively reduce the kinds of physiological responses that you have during stress.

We did an interesting study a few years ago looking at how loneliness in college freshmen was associated with how they respond to the flu vaccination. What we showed is that social isolation predicted having a worse vaccination response to the flu immunization.

We also counted how many objective social contacts students had, and we found that the people who had the fewest contacts (for example, if they talked with only about five people every two weeks) had worse vaccination responses than people who reported speaking regularly with 10 or 20 people. College students might need more than three or four friends because they are usually away from their families and don’t have the support network that they had at home. In your first semester of college, you really might only know a few people, and if you’re feeling lonely, if those aren’t good quality ties, that will have a negative health consequence, and health is critical to having good wellbeing.

Strengths Insights: Do you have any specific suggestions on how educators can model healthy behaviors for their students or how they can help their students have higher health and wellbeing, handle stress more effectively, or become more engaged in their classes?

Dr. Pressman: First, they already are, to some extent, enhancing many of these things because of what they do with strengths. One of the reasons we ask students to take the Clifton StrengthsFinder and teach them about their strengths is because it should make them happier and enhance their positive emotions. If you can help someone have higher positive emotions, then they will have higher physical wellbeing. Just by trying to get students to think about their strengths and savor them, you will probably help them have higher wellbeing and be more engaged in the classroom, especially if you encourage them to keep [their strengths] in mind during times of stress.

But it’s important not to let stress become the entire focus of your message. You have to address stress, but we never tell people they have to be happy 100% of the time. They need to recognize when they’re stressed and experience negative emotions, but they also shouldn’t let negativity overwhelm the positive. That’s a really important message: Accept the negative, but try to focus on the positive.

Wellbeing: The Five Essential Elements

Wellbeing is a concept that goes much beyond eating right and exercising. It is actually more than just being happy. Wellbeing is actually a combination of experiences and patterns that represent a holistic support for one’s overall experience and outlook on life. There are tons of texts out there that discuss the secrets to happiness and elements of wellbeing, but this text is one of the few that actually manages some easy to follow elements that capture the overall concept with a set of statistics to support with empirical evidence.

Here are the FIVE element to wellbeing:

  • Career: Where do you spend the largest part of your day? Career is actually a bit of a loose term, in that students attending a school are seen in the same light as a regular full-time or part-time employee to their place of employment. When asked the question about what you do, this is the first place that most people would go. Do you feel high engagement in your career? Do you get to do the best work everyday? Do you feel supported in your professional development? These are just some of the questions that relate to high career wellbeing.
  • Social: Do you feel like you have friendship and love in your life? Social relationships are vital and the amount of time you can spend with the people you care about can increase your overall life satisfaction. This can actually include a broad range of activities: from going out to dinner to talking on the phone. These relationships can sometimes help people achieve in ways they may not have on their own. How do you balance your day between work and play?
  • Financial: Who thinks about money in terms of their health? The reality is that money buys happiness in a different way than most might think. It is not how much money you have but how you spend it. It is about the experience. One may define that experience as traveling the world, or maybe it is purchasing a large-screen television to host viewing parties for major sporting events. Do you feel like you are getting value out of your spending? Do you worry about your finances? These are important questions that define one’s financial wellbeing.
  • Physical: What choices do you make regarding your diet, exercise and rest? Short-term choices have long-term effects. Exercising on a regular basis, particularly in the morning, can help to maintain energy. Getting the appropriate amount of sleep can help you be more effective throughout the day. Eating the right foods keeps you active. All of this can help you feel and look better. How do you take care of yourself?
  • Community: Do you feel connected to the environment around you? At a basic level, everyone needs to feel a sense of security in the area they live. Beyond this, a sense of pride comes from engaging in the offerings in the community, such as farmer’s markets, community performance events and service activities. Community can also be defined more broadly to encompass the groups to which we belong. Do you have a sense of belonging in your communities?

If you want to be successful in your career, it is important to be balanced in the other areas as well. This is a lesson that I have taken from this text and hope to better incorporate into my life. The book comes with a code that allow you to activate a 6-month subscription. Once logged in, there is an overall wellbeing assessment that highlights your strength in each of the five areas, with the opportunity to take daily checkups to track your progress. I have only just begun to utilize the tools and have already seen a small improvement in my overall wellbeing.

NHTI Closure: It’s Only the Beginning

I am so grateful for the opportunity to attend NHTI this summer. I am sure that I have said this on multiple occasions, but this was the most transformative and meaningful professional development experience I have ever encounter. There are a number of young professionals I would love to recommend to jump into this experience and will certainly start tagging people to hopefully get accepted over the next few years.

Last evening was the closure to the institute. With a formal dinner in store, the 2012 class of NHTI gathered for pictures and a tour of the Richard B. Russell Special Collections Building. The dinner was spectacular, but we shifted forward into the presentations and graduation ceremony. After a recognition by the UGA staff of the faculty, we got our chance to toast and/or roast our cluster leaders. Laughs were shared and tears of joy were shed. In the end, each of us were able to get called up to the front and receive our official certificate of completion and NHTI pin, symbolizing our success through the program.

While I am going to hold my lessons learned for another entry, there is a lot of appreciation I have for how this whole institute came together. The NHTI faculty were selected in a competitive process, developed their presentations and arrived in Athens before the participants in order to prepare and practice in order to get it just right. They engaged us with compelling presentations, informative group discussions, challenging scenarios and plenty of laughs. Their comfort with sharing their personal journeys, struggles and successes was something truly inspiring. They made themselves available to respond to questions at any time of the day and had a warmth that gave us a peek into who they are on a personal level. While they may know that we are grateful and may be able to predict that a lot of future success was sitting in that room, it will be exciting to prove that we are truly a talent selection of professionals and future leaders in the field.

In addition to the faculty with their presentations, the associate sponsors were just as impressive, Whether it was Ellen Heffernan’s directness in highlighting important details in interviewing or Brad Noyes recognition of the importance of surveying the market, they touched on the important partnerships and details that guide decisions at the and for the director level while not making the presentation a direct advertisement for their services. Lee Thompson Jr of Southwest Contract even went as far as explaining his appreciation for the existence of NHTI and the opportunity his family has had to be an active part of the experience.

I would be completely remise if I did not recognize the staff of UGA. Gerry Kowalski and Keener Scott had the program down to a science. With housekeeping checks and materials galore, there was almost never a moment where I had a question about what was happening on the schedule. I was able to completely disconnect from my iPad and iPhone during the day, including having no true sense of the actual time (fully focused on the experience). They thought of everything, down to the smallest details. The linens were changed every day. There was an iron and ironing board in the apartment, as well as some extra toiletries. The vans always arrived on time and got us to our locations on time. Their selection of TAs was spectacular. While the faculty made the learning experience happen, the UGA staff covered all of the environmental aspects to encourage and enhance the opportunities for authentic learning.

It was truly sad to say goodbye to the NHTI 2012 class, but we will see each other down the road. The relationships are lifelong and I hope I will make everyone proud as I continue on in my career.

NHTI Day 5: Leadership and Vision Revisited

While the day is not over, our final sessions have concluded. Our NHTI class is left with many questions to answer, competencies to explore and goals to achieve. Luckily, we have a talented and experienced class of instructors to guide us on our journeys.

The only specific content session of the day was on supervision. So-so vision is not enough to make a department successful. While selecting a talented and complementary staff is the first step, there are many ways to reinforce and development team to continue to grow and achieve. It is like a recipe (as Chuck Lamb would say). It starts with setting the foundation through goal-setting, reviewing expectations and reflecting on the vision. Once the group has had an opportunity to start on their path, observations and check-ins allow for a sense of individual and team progress. Evaluations are always necessary to provide reflection toward enhancement, improvement and reinforcement. Finally, motivation is key to help pull the whole recipe together. I was selected to engage in a role play involving an issue of staff conduct, reinforcing the importance of communication and defining clear goals and action steps when handling the follow up to a staff incident.

Our faculty were given the opportunity to serve on a panel, allowing us as participants a chance to learn from their experience about the burning questions still on our minds. Topics ranged from their choices to go for terminal degrees to predictions in the future of housing. At the core, the message was one that combined a recognition for the reality of the higher education arena and recommendations of how we can continue to succeed while striving for our goals.

Still ahead this evening is an opportunity to celebrate our accomplishment of our completion of the NHTI program and some temporary goodbyes to the people who made this experience the great one it has been.

More reflection to come…

NHTI Day 4: Management on Multiple Levels

With the end of the institute in the near future, our focus turned more to our response and management from a place of authority and responsibility. With a flash and a bang, human resources was our first area of focus. When thinking about high-functioning departments, rock stars are not always needed. Much of the success of an organization comes from individual staff members that are good at what they do, can be reliable and buy into the mission and vision of the department and its leadership. A chief housing officer does not need to find all of their talent externally, especially when they may be individuals within the department that are not only capable, but they have a desire to learn and you have an opportunity to get them there. This does not mean an external search is invaluable, but the reasons governing an external search are vastly different than considering an internal promotion (such as resources to conduct the search, the multiple costs of training and the existence of available talent).

As an extension to some of the previous vendor conversations, we engaged in the fine art of market research and housing construction. Projects for a campus come from an exhaustive process of determining the demand and the need for the institution’s strategic plan or other environmental factors. Completing a cost/benefit analysis of the project that addresses economic and population trends is much more responsible and reasonable than simply reacting to vocal messages of the community (though they may end up saying the same thing). Engaging in these large projects is something that I hope to be able to do once I return back to my home institution.

Crisis! This is a word that can throw someone into panic mode by itself, let alone identifying the actual problem at hand. Managing a crisis merges very well with thinking about the politics of higher education and at one’s institution. While the general reactions to crises may be similar (stay calm, gather important players and follow up), it is a much cleaner process to be preventative through emergency actions plans and identifying who the key players actually are. In a scenario involving a residence hall with significant invasion of mold, my cluster brainstormed how we would respond, but I was also identified to provide a “statement” to the media. This experience certainly engaged my interest and mindset for handling crises, but I was even more engaged through practicing how I would reaction in the event of questions I could not answer. Being short and direct while only saying what can and should be announced is a bit of an art, and something that I will need to continue to practice.

On top of the regular session, I had time to meet with my cluster leader, Jill Eckardt, for a 1:1 involving my professional development plan and thoughts on the institute. While certainly nervous about having my life planned out 10 years down the road, I truly appreciated getting to talk about thoughts and concerns including the need for a terminal degree, adjustments to make in my current role and competencies in which to focus for my future success. I walked away from the time feeling a little more inspired, a little more motivated and a little ore confident in who I am as a professional.

Even though there is one more day, I have to say that this experience has been transformative and I hope I can live up the quality of the faculty who led the sessions, the institution that hosted the institute and the colleagues who have exhibited such a strong foundation for knowledge and experience.

Thank you, NHTI!

NHTI Day 3: The Self, The Organization, The Environment

As the experience continues, the inner reflection only grows stronger. With a series of somewhat related and individual functional areas, the picture only grows more complex and intriguing. This all has been pushing me toward the questions of what do I see my future as in this field and can I really get there? Without factoring in the conversation about a terminal degree, I can say that I feel much more optimistic about continuing in the field and having the right mindset to provide effective leadership.

While somewhat nebulous, I walk away from the politics conversation with more questions and a desire to dive deeper in the plethora of issues for Chief Housing Officers. This is actually a good thing because I believe that a spark has been ignited that may help steer me toward further education of some sort (not immediate, but also not in the distant future). Issues of power and constituents may make this arena seem unwieldy, but a level head, knowledge of resources and a trustworthy team can help any CHO see their problems through.

Taking a step back toward ourselves, a presentation by a Spelman & Johnson representative brought the focus back to our own pursuit of senior level opportunities. While many of the recommendations were not new and actually already part of my practice now, it was a great benefit to hear most of my current practices supported by Ellen’s expectations for candidates in the active search.

When considering the environmental experiences I have had in my career, I have believed that the large, public institution is the only place for me. While this belief stays unchanged, there are some elements of the Administration discussion that made me appreciate smaller organizations. In particular, the bureaucracy of a large, public institution can be frustrating in relating back to those issues of positional power and lines of communication to make decisions. A smaller department means fewer individuals to report to and less of a headache to progress an agenda or program. It is also important to not forget the importance of facilities management in the Resident Life experience. The total student experience starts with having facilities that support a student’s ability to live and interact on a college campus.

The budget conversation got me thinking about the interesting position I am in now with budgetary experience. I am grateful for the opportunity I was given in my last job to consider developing a zero-based budget for my community, as my current position has absolutely no budgetary responsibility. Still, it is important for me to find ways to engage the staff at my institution to either stay abreast of the complexity of the department’s budget construction and facilitation, as well as how I may still be able to get more hands-on experience to support my future goals.

While it may have been structured in a furniture format, the conversation about contracts and outside vendors was still extremely helpful and applicable to a number of different programmatic elements: from conferences to new construction/renovation.

Ultimately, I finish the day with a wavering on exactly what my goals are but a better idea of more of my values and stronger areas of interest/intrigue. I may need to get creative in my current role to pull off some of the professional development necessary to move up in my field (or even at my institution), but I do feel inspired to take on the challenge. If only I could have a PhD tomorrow…