Questioning My Work and Why You Should To!

I have, up until recently, thought about my future within the context of employment. Location. Title. Pay. Job Responsibilities. However, it wasn’t until recently that I began thinking about my future through a new lens. What do I want to be known for in Student Affairs and Higher Education? or What is my legacy?

Perhaps it was a professional existential crisis, but I came to realize that I no longer want to be a doer. Personally, it is no longer acceptable for me to just do my job and do it really well. Often, people don’t get promoted because they do a good job. To excel from an entry-level position to a mid-level position and beyond, I need to continue to do my job well and find a specific skill that sets me apart from my peers because let’s be honest, we are all overachievers!

I have been with my current institution for the last five years and in that time I have “fixed” or improved many things including processes, systems, and relationships. I am proud to say that I am good at it. It was through these experiences that I have become very interested in organizational development and change. Over this past winter break, I came across a business and engineering thing called Lean Six Sigma. It sounded very foreign to me, yet I became instantly intrigued. One day I saw a posting through our College of Engineering offering this very certification. After getting the proper approvals, taking the online course, and passing the certificate exam I am now more certain than ever that this is my calling. My hope is to be able to expand on this newly minted certificate and carve my niche in Student Affairs and Higher Education.

Below are some questions I had to internally answer to help me find my purpose, and set me apart from my peers.

*What is one thing that comes very natural to me?

*Why does it come natural to me?

*Do I do this thing as part of my job? Can I do this as part of my job?

*Is there a need for this in higher education? Why? Is it institutional specific or a nation-wide need?

*Can I become an expert in this area? If so, what steps do I need to take?

*Who currently does this and can they be my mentor?

There is no clear cut timeline to finding your purpose. In fact, it may take more or less time of reflection and mentorship to figure it out. It has taken me almost eight years of post-masters experience to figure it out. Now that I know what I want to do, I have taken steps to move forward.

What is your calling?

Advertisements
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Create a Vision Others Will Want to Follow

All effective leaders have intangible qualities such as charisma, taking risks, and transparency.  In addition to these qualities, effective leaders create a vision that others want to follow. Whether you are a SGA President, a RA in a residence hall, or a student organization leader, your vision for the group can be a make or break determinant.

As a definition, vision is simply a picture of the future. It should be clear, defined, and articulated in such a way that others want to be a part of it. As a leader, it is not enough to talk the talk; you must also walk the walk. That is, you must live it.

All great leaders have a set of fundamental ideals that sets them apart from average leaders. These leaders not only live their vision, it defines them. Below are three concepts to keep in mind when creating your vision for your student group.

1. Think Big

What do Walt Disney, Henry Ford, and Steven Jobs have in common? They all had a big vision. Disney founded his institution based on family entertainment. Ford wanted to create a mass produced, affordable vehicle for the public and Steve Jobs transformed personal computing into a multi-billion dollar business. All these leaders had a “big picture” vision. As a student leader you should also have a “big picture” vision. Having a vision that does not challenge you or is so narrowly tailored that you or your organization will reach it too easily or will never reach it at all.

Use your Kindergarten teacher’s words of wisdom, dream big. Painting your picture of the future should not have stick figures and other sophomoric images in it. Rather it should be like da Vinci’s Mona Lisa or Michelangelo’s painting in the Sistine Chapel. 

When you are brainstorming ideas and goals for the year or into the future, think about what the end is going to look like and how you want that picture painted. Now you’ve got your vision, now it is time to unveil it.

2. Communicate Your Vision to Others

Disney was a visionary and creative genius. However, he did not possess the background necessary to run a business. He communicated his vision with his brother, Roy. Together, they formed the international multi-million dollar business as we know it today. As a student leader, it is imperative that your vision is communicated clearly to your group. Your vision needs to excite, and reaffirm why people are following you. In order for action towards your vision to happen, you must also create a sense of urgency within the group.

Other ways to effectively communicate your vision includes telling personal stories about your vision, and engaging in one-on-one conversations. Stories help others remember your vision and in turn, makes it easier for them to share your vision with others. One-on-one conversations helps your audience make a deeper connection with you and your vision.

Communicating your vision to the group can be accomplished in many different forums; leadership retreats, meetings, advertisements, information tables, just to name a few. Here are some tips when presenting your vision:

  • Keep it clear and on point. Nobody likes to listen to someone ramble.
  • Have fun. If people see you are having fun, they want to be a part of it.
  • Engage your audience.
  • Advertisement should be colorful and clear.
  • Be open to constructive feedback.

 

3. Build Bridges Toward Your Vision

Realistically, you cannot get from A to E without B, C, and D. Likewise, you cannot simply achieve your vision in one giant leap. Henry Ford did not build the most economical vehicle on his first attempt nor did Steve Jobs build the ultimate computer on his first attempt. These visionaries had many small victories (and failures) along the way.

As a student leader, it is important to set many goals along the way to achieving your vision. These smaller victories help build morale, and a positive environment. While setting goals seems like a daunting task, it is quite simple with the right people around you.

There are three types of goals that can be accomplished in route to your vision. The first type is procedural goals. This is as simple as starting on time, ending on time, following Robert Rules of Order, or all members in attendance. The second type of goals is those that take direct steps towards your vision. These are directional goals. An example of a directional goal could be the implementation of a new marketing plan that will increase group membership. The third type of goal is a milestone. This goal is more complex and difficult in nature, and requires a large amount of time. When a milestone is achieved, there is a sense of accomplishment and a time to celebrate. For example, earning recognition at the end of the year for being the most outstanding organization is cause for celebration.   

In conclusion, having a vision is a necessary part of the success of a leader and organization. Leaders need to think big when creating their vision and need to communicate their picture of the future. Finally, a vision cannot come to fruition without smaller victories and milestones in the form of goals. As a student leader, it is important to find your passionate area within the organization and to create a vision based on this passion. If your vision lacks passion, clarity and direction, the members in your organization will be hesitate to jump onboard.

 

Create a Vision Others Will Want to Follow

All effective leaders have intangible qualities such as charisma, taking risks, and transparency.  In addition to these qualities, effective leaders create a vision that others want to follow. These leaders not only live their vision, it defines them. Whether you are a SGA President, a RA in a residence hall, or a student organization leader, your vision for the group can be a make or break determinant.

Below are three concepts to keep in mind when creating your vision for your student group.

1. Think Big

Use your Kindergarten teacher’s words of wisdom, dream big. Painting your picture of the future should not have stick figures and other sophomoric images in it. Rather it should be like da Vinci’s Mona Lisa or Michelangelo’s painting in the Sistine Chapel.  

When you are brainstorming ideas and goals for the year or into the future, think about what the end is going to look like and how you want that picture painted. Now you’ve got your vision, now it is time to unveil it.

2. Communicate Your Vision to Others

As a student leader, it is imperative that your vision is communicated clearly to your group. Your vision needs to excite, and reaffirm why people are following you. In order for action towards your vision to happen, you must also create a sense of urgency within the group.

Communicating your vision to the group can be accomplished in many different forums; leadership retreats, meetings, advertisements, information tables, just to name a few. Here are some tips when presenting your vision:

  • Keep it clear and on point. Nobody likes to listen to someone ramble.
  • Have fun. If people see you are having fun, they want to be a part of it.
  • Engage your audience.
  • Advertisement should be colorful and clear.
  • Be open to constructive feedback.

 

3. Build Bridges Toward Your Vision

Realistically, you cannot get from A to E without B, C, and D. Likewise, you cannot simply achieve your vision in one giant leap.

As a student leader, it is important to achieve goals and view them as smaller victories toward your vision. I find there are three main types of goals.

1. Procedural Goals – goals that bring structure to the group like starting on time, ending on time, following Robert Rules of Order, or all members in attendance.

2. Directional Goals – goals that give direction towards the vision like a new marketing plan or the completion of a service project.

3. Milestones – goals that are a true group accomplishment and should be celebrated like earning a prestigious award, presenting at a national conference

In conclusion, having a vision is a necessary part of the success of a leader and organization. Leaders need to think big when creating their vision and need to communicate their picture of the future. A vision cannot come to fruition without smaller victories and milestones in the form of goals. As a student leader, it is important to find your passionate area within the organization and to create a vision based on this passion. If your vision lacks passion, clarity and direction, the members in your organization will be hesitate to jump onboard.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

STUDENT AFFAIRS AND GRAD SCHOOL: A BREIF “HOW-TO” GUIDE

I remember the day I decided to pursue a career in student affairs as if it was yesterday. I was sitting in my apartment playing MLB The Show 2007 and texting back and forth with my supervisor. He said he was going to Penn State University in the coming days to register for dissertation classes and to speak with his advisor. He asked if I wanted to go and talk with the chair of the master’s program, to see if this would be a career I would be interested in.

Prior to this conversation, I had my life planned out. I was going to teach, become a principal, earn a doctorate and become a superintendent.

I thought about my experiences as a RA, student government member, and Student Trustee. I really enjoyed my experience at Bloomsburg University, but was this something I wanted to make into a career?

After speaking with the program chair and a bit more with my supervisor, I decided to apply to graduate school. After a two-month rat race of researching schools, registering for the GRE and speaking with advisors and professors, I submitted application materials to schools.

After several interviews and campus visits, I accepted an offer from Bowling Green State University. There I would have a two-year assistantship as a Graduate Hall Director in the Office of Residence Life.

As I think back to my journey from undergrad to graduate school, I want to offer advice for those considering going to grad school for a master’s in student affairs.

  • Know thyself – I took a chance on a new career path and it has been rewarding. However, graduate school and student affairs are not for everyone. Graduate school should not be an avenue to delay “the real world” (for those going from undergrad straight to grad school). Likewise, viewing student affairs as an extension of undergrad or to “relive the best days” are two poisonous thoughts. Going into student affairs is a commitment to helping college students develop the necessary skills to be successful, mature adults.
  • Start early – My journey was unique. I did not make a decision until the end of September that grad school was my next step. As a result, I rushed through certain steps, and did not get the recommended preparation time for the GRE. Give yourself enough time to make correct decisions on how many and which schools to submit applications, who to ask for recommendations, application essays, and proper preparation for the GRE.
  • Be prepared to get and give rejection – One of the key words you will hear on your search is “fit.” Just as schools are considering you, you have to consider the institution, program, and location. I interviewed with several schools (who accepted me into their program) but I felt it was not the best “fit” for me. Likewise, I was rejected from many programs where I thought I had a good “fit.” I learned to be honest with each school through the process. If you feel it is not a good fit, be open and honest with the department/program chair.
  • Patience – Everyone works with deadlines. Every school has a different deadline date, review date, and interview date(s). Being patient and trusting the process is all part of the application process.
  • M.A., M.S., or M.Ed.? The difference between the types of degrees depends on whom you ask. Traditionally, the M.A. is viewed as a generalist degree; having transferrable skills and prepares one for a variety of jobs. The M.S. is viewed as a degree with one specific focus such as microbiology, or organic chemistry. The M.Ed. is rooted in educational disciplines such as guidance counseling, curriculum and instruction, or instructional technology. Whatever the type of degree it is, it will vary institution to institution and many times, you will find answers in the program curriculum guide.
  • Type of Program – When researching student affairs graduate programs you will come across a variety of program names. Some of the more common program names include College Student Personnel (CSP), Higher Education and Student Affairs (HESA), Educational Leadership/focus in Higher Education, and Higher Education Administration (HEA). While these names sound similar, their functions can be different. Some programs are student development focused while others are geared towards the administration within student affairs and/or higher education.

Below are two web resources you can use when considering graduate schools for student affairs.

American College Personnel Association’s Directory of Graduate Programs

National Association of Student Personnel Administrator’s Graduate Program Directory

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment