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That Thing Called Balance…

October 8, 2010

As I continue on my journey towards graduate school, I get more enthusiastic as each day passes. I’m involved in a lot (honestly too much) on campus. Between Senate and SGA, Cornhuskin’ and Classes, and not to mention my on campus job in the Office of Student Leadership and Service, I am juggling a lot of people’s expectations of myself while neglecting what I expect of myself. Mentally, I still feel like it is August, but my body is telling me it’s over due for fall break.

It’s very easy for me to neglect the extra minutes I get each day. I’m a student that a lot of people come to ask questions about various things. One day I counted at least 25 questions, not including times I was at work. Assuming that I spent 3 minutes with each student, that’s an hour and fifteen minutes of time that I spent answering questions between classes or when I should have been working on something else.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m entering the profession because I want to serve as a resource to students, but at the same time I need to be able to guide students to a resource besides myself. Simply by saying “I can’t answer your question right now, but you can go _____ to find out about it”, I am not only empowering my peers with the ability to find information, but I’m empowering myself to start some semblance of a work/life balance.

Work/Life balance isn’t something that happens over night. It’s a habit that needs to be developed while destroying a habit of imbalance at the same time. As a student leader, I quickly fall into a habit of wanting to help everybody and making sure each voice is heard, however, none of that can happen if I’m not taking care of myself.

Here are my questions to you:

Mentors- Are you encouraging your student leaders to develop a habit work/life balance? Are you modeling (or at least trying to model) balance for your students?

Student Leaders- What are you doing for yourself? Are you developing a habit of work/life balance that you can carry on into your professional career?

 

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Meet Eric

August 19, 2010

EricEric Rollo is the Director of Wellness at Bay State College in Boston, MA. Eric graduated in 2008 from Roger Williams University with a Bachelor’s degree in Marketing. Eric then began his graduate studies at Northeastern University, graduating with a Master of Science in College Student Development and Counseling. Eric’s experiences include acting as Residence Life Coordinator and working in Student Leadership and Community Service during his graduate assistantship at Bay State as well as working as a graduate assistant with the Alcohol and Drug Education Program at Boston College. Eric remains very involved in the New England Association of College and University Housing Officers, serving as the District Coordinator for Massachusetts. In his free time, Eric spends time with his fiancé, plays competitive lacrosse, and enjoys Boston sporting events.

5-Year Plan…What do YOU Want?

August 17, 2010

One of the most influential individuals I have met in the field may be considered a rebel by some, but to me, she was one of the driving factors that led me to pursue a Master’s degree, begin a career in Student Affairs, and to become involved in professional organizations. Aside from the many conversations, texts, phone calls, as well as the two large binders this individual made for me containing icebreakers, supervisory skills, and other helpful hints for transitioning from RA to RD; this supervisor gave me what might have been one of the best pieces of advice that I have received: create a five-year plan.

Now, many of you are either groaning or thinking of the many times you’ve been told to prepare for this in interviews, but this isn’t your normal five-year plan. This plan if for you, not your boss, not your direct reports, just you. The point of this five-year plan isn’t to set a long-term goal, its to figure out where to be and what to do in order to reach a pinnacle. Most five-year plans focus on the big picture, or where you want to be, rather than what you need to do to get there. You might not have a goal for five years from now, but maybe you at least have an idea of what skills you want to gain from your first few experiences, if not, this will hopefully help.

The first question you need to ask yourself is, “Self, where do I want to be?”. Try your best to answer this, but realize that it may change, often. Now, let’s break this down by year. Here’s what we’re looking at:

Year 1: Learning

Year 2: Mastering

Year 3: Expanding

Year 4: Moving Up

Year 5: Mastering

Keep in mind that these can happen over greater or fewer years, and at more than one institution; or, this could be a map for staying at one school. It’s about what you want and need along the way. Only you know when you’ve mastered something, and only you know when you’re ready to take more on or move up. Let’s break this down a bit further…here’s the structure that I used (adapted to be a bit more general)…

Year 1 – Learning

Institution: Bay State College                                   Position: (Resident Director / Coordinator)

Goals:

1) Gain more supervision skills of a larger staff and/or Graduate Assistants

2) Gain experience in advising student groups

3) Create a personal system that is conducive to supporting the office, myself, and my staff

4) Adapt a programming model to better fit development theory and shape it to work with staff

5) Attend and create programs centered around diversity and cultural issues

Keys to Success: Stay grounded and humble.

The learning year is your chance to learn what you need to do to perform your basic job responsibilities at your new institution. Some of the components I used are relevant to assessment that had been done of various aspects of the responsibilities I would have, while others speak to the skills I wanted to acquire to better prepare myself in the next step on my journey.

Year 2 – Mastering

Position: (Resident Director / Coordinator)

Goals:

1) Continue succeeding in role as a supervisor/advisor.

2) Gain experience with uncomfortable conversations: conduct, advising.

3) Begin to apply academic knowledge to larger-scale models, or adapt for use everyday.

4) Present at a regional conference or be published in the NEACUHO Navigator

5) Begin getting involved in professional organizations

6) Assess programming model and rework to better fit student staff

Keys to Success: Stay grounded and humble. Remember the feeling of being the low man on the totem pole

Year 3 -Expanding

Position: (Resident Director / Coordinator)

Goals:

1) Take on new tasks such as committees, advising student groups, or regional/national publications or presentations

2) Keep in touch with previous network while working to enhance and grow professional relationships

3) Develop models specific to your own work based on your academic knowledge

4) Begin exploring opportunities to move up or move on

5) Expand committee involvement in professional organizations

Keys to Success: Be confident, know your institution and your boundaries. Get ready to grow!

Meet Cristina

August 5, 2010

Hi, I’m Cristina Rodriguez, and I am a senior at Florida International University majoring in Public Relations and minoring in Spanish. I began my campus involvement during my second year at FIU, and needless to say, I fell in love with campus activities and have never looked back since. Currently, I am the President of the programming board on campus, The Student Programming Council.
I have been an active member of the National Association for Campus Activities since my first year of campus involvement. My first experience with NACA sealed the deal, so to speak. It was a programmer’s candy land- I learned so many new ideas at the Ed. Sessions, met experienced associates and was exposed to a wide array of talented artists. I attended 3 more conferences after that and can honestly say that I have always left having grown immensely. Currently, I serve as The Student Projects Coordinator for the RCPC of NACA South. NACA is simply mind blowing!

This is my second year serving as the Student Programming Council’s President and can honestly say that there is never a dull moment because I’m always learning new things about myself and the people around me. My college experience would not be the same without Student Affairs and so, I find myself in the same position as most SA professions: On a mission to “pay it forward.”

Student Affairs: A Way of Life

August 3, 2010

Although somethings simply go without saying, there always seems to be an internal drive that pushes us to want to express what we are feeling and what we understand about life. Throughout my years as a student leaders, this drive has always been present and will continue to be there because, as I have become well aware, life is a never-ending learning process. And, as a student leader, I have grown to believe that this process is greatly emphasized.

So what I have I learned as a student leader, you may ask? Writing it all out would be highly improbable and inefficient. Everyone has their own lessons to learn, but I have to believe that in the end, there are common truths we grow to realize. This is what I have grown to realize so far:

It’s all about the people! They are the spirit and heart of all that we do. It is the marvelous dynamic of a team that allows growth and success towards a common vision. Everyone has something unique to offer whether it’s a sense of humor or an affinity for numbers. And, if you’re lucky, you come across a mentor or two in your life, who influence you and your aspirations.

In 2008, I had just been selected as the VP of External Relations  for the Student Programming Council at FIU. Much to my surprise, our adviser was offered a job promotion at another institution, and our team was left wandering around for the first half of the year. Then, my soon to be mentor came in, and I have never looked back since. I not only improved by marketing and PR skills, but I grew to understand the “bigger picture” with his help. I learned how to be a visionary leader, I learned how to bring the best out of my fellow leaders, and I learned the importance of developing professionally in order to be a more effective leader. I grew so much that I was not only selected as President in 2009 but decided to stay on as President for this year. Finally, the last lesson I learned from him was that success is measured on the amount of a positive impact that you have on peoples’ lives.

He was offered a job promotion at another institution, but his legacy is what will propel me forward in continuing to strive to impact others’ lives. He not only made me realize that my first notion of attending law school was not for me right now, but he taught me to value the profession of student affairs. Student affairs is a way of life… It is the common values we all share; it is the diverse group of people that compose it; it is the ongoing, positive impact on students’ lives for years to come.

Meet Jennifer

July 30, 2010

Hi! My name is Jennifer and I’m a Junior at Meredith College, a small private liberal arts women’s college, in Raleigh, North Carolina. I’m majoring in Religious and Ethical Studies with Minors in History, Political Science, and Ethics and the Public Intrest. I work in Meredith’s Office of Student Leadership and Service where I do everything from answer phones and make copies, to  assisting with planning Meredith’s annual Celebrating Student Achievement Day ceremonies.

This year I am serving as Meredith’s SGA Student Body Vice President and SGA Senate Chair. In addition I participate in several organizations on campus and I am the Junior Advisor for Alpha Lambda Delta.

My road to student affairs began with my work study job in The Office of Student Activities and Leadership Development (now called Student Leadership and Service, or SLS). Due to my employment and the encouragement of my supervisors and now close mentors, I became more involved on campus. I also began to realized that I was unhappy in my then declared major of History Education.

Through my participation in Meredith’s 2009 campus session of the LeaderShape Institute, I realized that my interests and passions had shifted since high school and I actually realized for the first time that I was on the “road to student affairs.” So far it’s been an amazing ride and I’ve met some of the most amazing people through my campus, my internship at North Carolina State University, and the Student Affairs Chat or #sachat community on twitter.

This journey has just begun and I can’t wait to see where it leads!!!

The Summer of Exploration

July 28, 2010

This summer was one of exploration. As you’ll read in my about me post that will be next, I already knew that student affairs, specifically leadership development, was the next step I wanted to take with my life and I was 150% certain.

When I planned for this summer, I just wanted to find an off campus summer job that I could love, and found it. I’ve spent most of my summer working for Mission Serve, a religious non-profit in Cumming, GA (you can read more details here). One of the reasons I selected this organization was due to their belief that through changing the world of the volunteer, the world itself will be changed. That, in a sense, is what I hope to accomplish through my work in Student Affairs. Being able to provide the resources needed for leadership development in student’s lives so that they may go forth and change the world.

In addition to my work with Mission Serve, I have been reading my college’s summer reading book, Half the Sky by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl Wudunn. By attending a women’s college, I had become aware of injustices against women throughout the world, but not to the extent as described in Half the Sky. In one of the chapters, the authors encouraged readers, especially those in college to take a gap year and work or intern with one of the organizations mentioned in the book.

I had already been considering the different options for what I could do prior to starting grad school, and my work with Mission Serve and reading Half the Sky increased my options. There is so much to be learned from living abroad for a year or two.

While very little in my list of plans immediately after college screams “Student Affairs,” it is filled with things that would make me a wiser, more experienced professional and adds to what I can provide to students once I enter the field.

Some of the best times to do something new or different is when you are the most certain about what you want the end goal to be. That way whether I join the Peace Corps, do mission work, or go to grad school for student affairs, my perspective will be set on empowering women to be effective leaders

So I encourage other undergraduates to look at your options, even the ones that you may not initially think would help your future. There are things to be learned from every experience and some of the most unconventional opportunities provide the greatest chance to become the person you want to be.

Go ahead and start thinking about next summer and what you want to do. The summer is a great chance to try these unconventional things. Let next summer be your summer of exploration.

And in case you’re wondering, I’m considering applying for several short-term internships, study abroad in Ireland, working for Mission Serve  again, or anything else that might pop up between now and then.