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I’m not sure why, but it is so incredibly difficult for me to tell my personal story until somebody asks about it. I’m not a private person or untrusting, but I am often struck by how many secrets I have despite not caring if I keep them. Sometimes I think I work in a field that values team building activities, personality tests, and shared self-reflection, because it gives me permission to tell someone, anyone, who I am. I cannot seem to grasp the importance of that permissions presence, but regardless, the moment someone asks me a question about my life, the words flow out honestly and effortlessly. It’s almost like I constantly wait behind a door that locks from the outside; once a person inserts the key and the hinges turn back on themselves, I explode out of the space and rush into their arms, filling them with little pieces of myself. The problem is that people, with their own interests in their own lives, rarely ask a question.

That being said, when I think of finding love or true companionship, I want many of the things other people want: affection, conversation, and comfort. However, I also desire someone who is truly willing to inquire about me and understands that my answers are rarely finished and they may need more than one follow-up question to solve even one of my smallest mysteries. I want someone who is constantly trying to riddle me out for the rest of my life. Because people are puzzles whose pieces are constantly changing, and which we can almost be certain will end up one piece short but will be no less satisfying. In response to their queries, I will give them truth and spirit, and I will spend the rest of my life inquiring about them in return. However, until then, I find that my relationships end not when people run out of questions, but they run out of the will to ask them.

  • 12/17/16

20 Memes to Get You Through Residence Hall Closing #ResLife

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@PaulGordonBrown

The following cross-post comes from the AMAZING, INCOMPARABLE Marci Walton.  Marci and I recently collaborated with Josie Ahlquist and Renee Piquette Dowdy in presenting a session at the 2015 NASPA convention on blogging in higher education in student affairs.  She’s great people.  Follow Marci on twitter.


Originally posted at MarciWalton.com:

Closing is upon us. The time of year when you go cross-eyed from paperwork, wonder if your student staff have been listening to you whatsoever, and brace yourself for nasty rooms. Any time you try to get thousands of people to do the same thing, in more or less the same manner, there are bound to be hiccups. I hope these closing memes will provide a respite from the monotony of signing your name 300 times or a giggle after dealing with a ridiculous damage appeal.

I used these two years ago as a way to…

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Managing The Stress of a Complex Student Affairs Grad Student Job Search

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Patrick Love's Life

Woman stressed

I have created a video describing a way to handle complex student affairs grad student job searches. By complex, I mean job searches that have multiple competing variables, such as wanting one type of job, but being willing to settle for another, or wanting to work in one geographic area, but realizing that may not be possible. I describe a way to manage these competing priorities, especially in light of the fact that grad students are in a terminal experience and not applying for a job from a job, a situation that also contributes greatly to one’s stress.

Please let me know if you have any questions about what I have to say. All feedback is welcome as well.

Follow me on Twitter: @pglove33

For the whole job search story, get my book Job Searching in Student Affairs: Strategies to Land the Position YOU WantSeriously, it will be…

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Mizzou Protests Reflection: Why don’t we believe our students?

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There are some days when you come home with a heavy heart.

We’ve all had those long days that leave us dragging. That weight can be added by a long day in the office, a fight with a friend, or a number of other things. For some of us, however, that weight is added a little bit easier.

One of my top Strength’s Finder words is empathy. Although I consider it one of my best strengths, it can also be a little torturous at times. Empathy is “…the feeling that you understand and share another person’s experiences and emotions : the ability to share someone else’s feelings.” For my work in Student Affairs, empathy helps me step out of my own shoes and into those of my students. It’s a wonderful skill that I feel allows me to understand what they are going through and how that effects their development through their education and life. Although this is useful, it has some adverse effects, too.

Sometimes, it hurts. It hurts when I have to have a disciplinary conversation with my students that is hard for them to hear. I know that these conversations could lead to them losing a job or their home in Residence Life. It hurts when I hear about their homesickness and frustrations on test scores. I know that these issue often make our students want to toss away their education. And finally, it hurts when I hear that they are being hurt or mistreated by others. Because in all of these things, I can understand their pain and nearly feel it all myself, but there is often little I can do to alleviate it. My only weapon is education, some campus resources, and a good ear, but those things often do not have the immediate effects I would like them to have.

One such moment that hurts me is when I see my students or friends or anyone else, really, experience oppression. “Institutional Oppression is the systematic mistreatment of people within a social identity group, supported and enforced by the society and its institutions, solely based on the person’s membership in the social identity group.” Seeing those I care about shut in a box by the world because of the color of their skin or their culture or their religion or anything else beyond their control, is probably the most painful experience of them all. It’s only made worse when you think about how many people don’t believe the experience of those in the box is legitimate.

I can tell you it is legitimate.

I can tell you, because I see it day after day, and I feel the pain of my students and colleagues and friends. It permeates my campus. It’s whispered by students who either truly believe their oppressive words or who are parroting things they were taught by elders. It’s felt by students who quietly try to ignore it or laugh it off or boil in their own anger. Whether they experience in person or they see it on the news or they see it on an anonymous YikYak post, oppression isolates and harms people. Like any other form of psychological abuse, the effects are lasting.

I recognize that I have been relatively privileged in my life, but my own experiences as a woman and my empathetic personality have made oppression a topic that I am particularly fiery about. I’m sure most of you that have me on Facebook are pretty tired of my endless social justice posts. Sometimes I feel ashamed at my own voice and the effects it probably has on my relationships. However, the one thing that always makes me return to advocacy is seeing a student or a colleague affected by these issues.

Just like I want to help my students succeed academically, I want them succeed mentally and have the best opportunities. However, with experiences (Swastikas, racist language, and threats abound) like those at Mizzou and Yale not being uncommon, I can understand the fear and anguish of my students and others. What’s worse is that people often think racism is isolated to a couple individuals or doesn’t exist at all. What’s is worse is that, although I have empathy for my students, many do not. It didn’t take too long to scroll down on an article of about Mizzou protest to see grown adults calling the students involved a bunch of overreacting, hate-mongering, animals. Funny enough, it didn’t take long for bomb threats and gun threats to get lobbed at the students of color on campus either.

However, I can tell you that those students are not overreacting. They see something legitimate that we want to close our eyes to.

About a month ago (2015!!) I logged onto my university’s YikYak and saw these:

Screenshot_2015-09-01-21-35-08 Screenshot_2015-09-01-21-38-17 Screenshot_2015-09-01-21-38-36 Screenshot_2015-09-01-21-38-46 Screenshot_2015-09-01-21-40-17 Screenshot_2015-09-01-21-42-40 Screenshot_2015-09-01-21-48-09 Screenshot_2015-09-01-21-48-53 Screenshot_2015-09-01-21-49-15 Screenshot_2015-09-01-21-52-50 Screenshot_2015-09-01-21-53-09 Screenshot_2015-09-01-21-53-38 Screenshot_2015-09-01-21-58-05 Screenshot_2015-09-01-22-11-08

These weren’t the only ones either. I deleted my YikYak, because I couldn’t stomach any more. I thought it was just one student trolling at first, but then I saw multiple comments by different people and likes on racist jokes.

Let me ask you: What do I tell a African American or Latino student who has seen these posts? How do I tell them they will be safe on our campus?

But we’re in a post racial society, right? Our students are overreacting, right? It’s all in their head? The only thing keeping them from succeeding is themselves, not the overwhelming racism still alive and well in our education system or society. Right?

I can try and educate my students as much as possible with my many wonderful colleagues, but we need more than just us to fix this problem.

We, as a society, have lost empathy. Those YikYaks, the threats to students at Mizzou, the girls kicked out of a “white girls only” fraternity party at Yale…All of it should upset you in 2015. All of it should upset our students and their administrations. All of it should be enough to stop the denial. All of it should make us think of our own experiences and how we wanted to have a best chance at reaching our dreams. All of us should think of how we want our children to be cared for and succeed. Then all of us should think about what it would be like if you or your child saw these hateful and often threatening posts everyday on social media. Would you feel safe at school? Would it hinder you? Would you want to fight back?

These students at these universities are not making up this problem. They are fighting to change something that is wrong within their institutions. They are fighting to heal a wound that psychologically hinders them everyday. So, when you criticize these students, please stop and listen and try to put yourself in their shoes. If they felt heard and understood by their peers and their institutions and their government, you wouldn’t have the protests that so many of you criticize.

But until we hear them and we try to understand and we realize that these problems are real, these protests will continue and education will suffer. So will the world.

The Need for Transparency

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I know it has literally been ages since I posted to this blog, and I sincerely regret that. However, today I had something to say, and it is better late than never, right?

Over the last year, I have learned a lot about myself as a person and a professional. From the ups and downs that come with my job, to traveling for my internship, to being away from home, and, of course, to my graduate work, I’ve encountered a lot within my field and within my own being. It has been an amazingly devastating ride, and although it drives me crazy at times, I know it is going to shape who I am for a long time to come.

One thing I have learned about and is sadly new to me, is a need for transparency. We always talk about honesty and genuineness as traits people should have, but I have learned that you can be honest and genuine in your words without ever being transparent. I can tell you that I have faced struggles, and those words are genuine and honest enough. However, my telling you that I have had struggles does not reveal anything about what those struggles are. What those struggles are, though, impact how we think and act. They are the context to any problem we face and solve in life.

In my field, I have learned that we are sometimes obsessed with learning about ourselves and each other, but despite this obsession, we often settle for what is just at the surface. We do developments and take personality quizzes and have long talks, because many of us believe we have to know ourselves in order to help students and to build good staff teams.

However, I think this need does not necessarily couple well with the politics involved in our field and the need to act positive all the time. Many of us put on the facade to avoid looking like we don’t agree with our bosses or losing refences in our very small field of work. Others put it on because we want to look like we can handle anything, especially among grads whom will be job searching with soon. Some put it on because it is easier than talking about what is within. I can tell you every True Color of my staff, but rarely do I know their actual thoughts behind the half smiles or half frowns or raised eyebrows when a crisis arises at work. Recently, I find myself policing my own thoughts and texts and feelings everyday out of fear that someone will take my questions as dissent or my anxiety as irrelevant or weak.

How different would our lives, both in the work place and out, be if we were just transparent with each other? Is that a healthy work environment? Is that a space where we can truly support each other? If feelings were not feared and feedback was accepted and we just talked, how much more could we give to our students? I understand that sometimes being positive when you don’t feel positive can be helpful in building morale, but can I truly be on a team with my staff if I never know what frustrates or saddens them? How can our employers know what needs to be fixed if we are too afraid to tell them or even ask questions? And this doesn’t just apply to work, but also to life in general. How much stronger would our relationships be if we went in with the truth?

I think we tend to accept our own silence and the silence of those around us, because it is more comfortable. It keeps things in line and leaves the status quo as is. It keeps our jobs. However, what does it cost? For me, it costs potential friends and my happiness and creates a toxic environment. It’s something I can no longer keep up, nor do I want to. We wouldn’t have counselors if bottling things up was a good idea. And, if we don’t say how we feel and say what we think now, it usually comes out later some how or another.

I am under no illusion that politics within the work place will go away or that everyone is suddenly going to start divulging their deepest, darkest secrets to each other. It simply isn’t realistic, and I think it is normal to keep things to yourself. However, when secrecy and lack of trust begin to contribute to your unhappiness, maybe it is time to let some things go.

In the end, I hope you will challenge yourself to be a little more transparent with yourself and those around you. It’s not always easy, but I promise it is worth it.

What Students Really Need to Hear

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I think this captures what most Student Affairs professionals feel. Challenge and support is the key to all we do.

AFFECTIVE LIVING

It’s 4 a.m.  I’ve struggled for the last hour to go to sleep.  But, I can’t.  Yet again, I am tossing and turning, unable to shut down my brain.  Why?  Because I am stressed about my students.  Really stressed.  I’m so stressed that I can only think to write down what I really want to say — the real truth I’ve been needing to say — and vow to myself that I will let my students hear what I really think tomorrow.

This is what students really need to hear:

First, you need to know right now that I care about you. In fact, I care about you more than you may care about yourself.  And I care not just about your grades or your test scores, but about you as a person. And, because I care, I need to be honest with you. Do I have permission to be…

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Being A Christian Does Not Make You Moral

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Truth.

hessianwithteeth

As I have said in a previous post, we get a lot of comments about how we can’t be moral because we are atheists. So let’s discuss what makes a person moral.

To be clear, neither Withteeth or I would say that we are moral because we are atheists. We are moral for other reasons. To be moral requires more than a set of beliefs: it requires actions as well. Withteeth and I have thought deeply about our moral convictions, and we have gone out of our way to act on those convictions. Anyone who wishes to argue that we are not moral is either willfully ignoring what we have done that makes us moral, or they are under the impression that to be moral you merely have to hold a particular set of beliefs. I believe that most of those who comment on our blog are of the second…

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